WESTBROOK — The family of a Connecticut man who died from injuries after a Christmas Eve hit-and-run crash is drawing strength from his earlier decision to be an organ donor.
John Ingalls, 36, of Ivoryton, was struck from behind by a hit-and-run driver on Christmas Eve as he was riding his bicycle on Spencer Plains Road at around 4:50 p.m., state police said.
Two state police troopers showed up at the home of his mother, Maggie Steendam, a short while later.
“It’s a mother’s worst nightmare to have two state troopers come to your door on Christmas Eve,” Steendam said Monday.
She was told her son was brought to Yale New Hospital and was in surgery, Steendam said.
By Christmas Day, she discovered her son was an organ donor and she was learning about the process due to the gravity of his injuries, she said. “It’s huge comfort, I am so grateful,” Steendam said. “I’m so proud of him, I didn’t know that’s what he wanted to do.”
When people think about organ donation, they tend to think about major organs, she said.
But there are many ways someone can receive the gift of life, or a fuller life, through a donation, Steendam learned.
“If John couldn’t be a major organ donor, he could be a tissue donor,” she said. “People can donate their corneas for someone who is blind, skin to a woman who has had a mastectomy so she can raise her arm higher while washing her hair in the shower, heart valves, bones, nerves, muscle tissue all can help people.”
Ingalls died from his injuries Saturday morning.
While it was important for the family to see justice served, it was equally important to have something positive come from the loss, she said.
“In difficult circumstances, there is always something positive that comes from it,” she said. “I do believe that good can come from it. Sometimes it takes time.”
Steendam and her husband, Sinco, revealed details of Ingalls’ last few days in the hospital in a Facebook post titled, “From Manslaughter to Christmas Gifts.”
“Christmas Day was spent in the ICU watching John in a coma with his brain damage slowly taking his life away,” the post read. “After much consideration and hospital team meetings we had to make a difficult decision to remove the ventilator and a host of medical IVs. We then discovered that John was committed to be an organ donor.
“The day after Christmas we were informed about protocols and we signed agreements. Continuing to be in a coma John was removed from all life support and allowed to pass away comfortably in peace. We know that he has donated the best Christmas gifts of life to needy recipients.
“We cannot afford to get snared with bitterness, unforgiveness, resentment and anger to poison our souls,” the Facebook post said.
Investigators determined Ingalls had been struck from behind by a driver who fled the scene, reports said.
The car involved is believed to be a silver or gray Acura MDX from 2007 or 2009, state police said.
“With the help of the media, social media and concerned citizens, troopers and Major Crime Detectives have developed strong leads in this case,” state police said. “Evidence has been collected and a person of interest has been developed. We anticipate an arrest warrant will be applied for in the near future in this case as we continue to collect and analyze evidence. This person will not be identified at this time while the investigation in ongoing.”
Ingalls was known as a loving person with a contagious smile and a quirky sense of humor. “He was a kind and caring person,” his mother said.
He was recalled by a family and friends as a movie lover and a fan of pizza who also enjoyed Pepperidge Farm Nantucket and Milano cookies, according to his obituary.
“His smile was contagious, his humor an acquired taste and his hidden kindness like that of no other,” his obituary said.
He leaves behind his parents, Stephen Ingalls of Ivoryton, and Maggie Carr Steendam of Old Saybrook, his stepbrothers, several aunts and uncles and cousins and his beloved 1998 Green Honda Civic, which he named “Courtney,” and his many friends “who loved him like family and accepted him for exactly who he was.”
State police are encouraging anyone with information on the crash to call Troop F at 860-399-2100.