Student hit in crosswalk remains in critical condition

The Newport Harbor High School senior who was hit by a car driven by an allegedly intoxicated woman remained in critical condition Wednesday, school officials said.

Crystal Morales, 17, was placed in a physician-induced coma at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana to help her recover from head trauma, internal bleeding, brain swelling and other internal injuries, according to an email Harbor High Principal Michael Vossen sent to parents, students and others at the school.

She would be on assisted breathing "for the next two weeks so she can be in the best possible recovery setting," he wrote. Only family members are allowed to visit Crystal while she is in critical care, according to Vossen.

Shortly before school was let out, police said Marnie J. Lippincott, 38, of Costa Mesa was driving in a Chevy Tahoe northbound on Irvine Avenue about 2:45 p.m. Tuesday and struck Crystal, who was heading westbound in a crosswalk at Margaret Drive.

Lippincott is charged with driving under the influence and causing injury, according to Newport Beach Police spokeswoman Kathy Lowe.

Police are still investigating the type of influence — alcohol or drugs — they suspect she was under at the time of the crash.

Lippincott, who has a minor criminal record, was being held Wednesday at Orange County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. She is expected to appear in court Friday.

Court records show in 2005 Lippincott pleaded guilty to theft, burglary and obtaining prescription drugs by fraud. She also has two previous traffic violations, including speeding.

District spokeswoman Laura Boss said Lippincott has a child who attends Harbor High.

Just before the accident, a black Tahoe traveling about 40 mph ran a stop sign near Ensign Intermediate School, according to Ruth Platt, who was picking her son up at Ensign. The Irvine Avenue and Beacon Street intersection is in a 25-mph residential zone.

Crystal was walking with three others when she was struck, Boss said, adding that the others were not hit.

On campus Wednesday, Boss said the mood was "solemn" and that "people are in shock." Crisis counselors were also available to meet with students.

"It's definitely a time that pulls the campus together when something like this happens," she said.

That section of Irvine Avenue has been a safety concern for school officials, Boss said, and the district has been working with Newport Beach city officials to improve crosswalk safety. Many students cross the avenue to get to their cars that are parked in the adjacent residential neighborhood.

Harbor High's parking is notoriously constrained for the number of student drivers there.

City Traffic Engineer Tony Brine said he met with school officials recently and discussed safety measures such as installing a flashing crosswalk, a flashing beacon on the side of the street, or adding a crossing guard. Nothing came of the meeting.

This summer, the city repaved the street and restriped the crosswalk, which made it more visible.

The area also happens to be where Newport Beach police stage a mock accident for the annual "Every 15 Minutes" demonstration about drunk driving.

Twitter: @mreicher

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