Woman nearly killed by hit-and-run driver celebrates birthday as search continues for suspect

Jeannie Smithwick beat the odds, surviving a hit-and-run crash that nearly killed her. Months after the accident, she celebrated her birthday with family and friends.  Smithwick had a message for that driver, who is still on the run. "I don't know how someone could just hit somebody and leave. I could never do that."

But that's exactly what happened to Jeannie Smithwick the night of April 17. Smithwick and another driver got into a wreck on I-285 near Northside Drive and Smithwick's car caught fire. A passerby stopped to help. Police said a blue Ford Mustang came barreling towards them and struck all three of them. The driver left the scene. Smithwick told FOX 5's Deidra Dukes, "I don't understand how someone could do that. That's crazy to me. I would never do that. I would hate myself."

RELATED: Driver wanted for dangerous I-285 hit-and-run

Smithwick suffered head trauma, internal injuries, and broken bones. Her mother says Jeannie spent six weeks at Grady Memorial Hospital before being transferred to the Shepherd Center where she underwent two months of rehabilitation. Just three weeks ago she walked without assistance for the first time since the wreck.  "Just to see that she is getting out is absolutely wonderful from that first moment when you didn't know if she would survive."

Friends and family gathered at There Bar on Tuesday night to celebrate her 31st birthday. It was Jeannie's first outing since the accident. She used to waitress at the Brookhaven establishment, the owner and staff are like family. Jeannie has come a long way since the accident but has a long road to recovery ahead. The search continues for the hit and run driver.  Jeannie's loved ones remain hopeful that the driver or someone who knows them will do the right thing and come forward.

Police said the blue Ford Mustang that struck Jeannie would have front end damage. They're asking anyone with information in this case to contact Sandy Springs police.

RELATED: 3 injured in apparent hit-and-run on I-285