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Billings boy hit by car recovering well; parents want more safety on street

Ben Jablonski
Posted at 6:15 PM, Oct 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-14 17:01:13-04

BILLINGS — Imagine getting a call that your child has been in an accident - a bad one.

"It was one of the scariest things," said Johnna Jablonski of Billings. "The image, I’ll never be able to get it out of my head. I pulled up and could see all the paramedics, and Ben was laying in the middle of the road."

Now imagine not being able to see it, but instead just hear it.

"All I remember is driving and hearing Ben just screaming in the background for that whole drive because she never hung up," said Josh Toenyes, the boy's stepfather.

Now imagine being in the middle of it.

"I just saw this car going super fast through," said Ben Jablonski. "I realize they’re not going to stop, so I’ll try to stop, but I got hit just at the time I hit the brakes."

Ben Jablonski hospital
Ben Jablonski was in the hospital for a day and a half with a serious concussion but no other major injuries after being hit by a car on Oct. 4.

Ben was hit by a car while riding his bike to Poly Drive Elementary School on the morning of Oct. 4. After seeing the car coming, the next the Billings 8-year-old remembers is waking up in the hospital, which was a surprise.

"Once I woke up, I was thinking, ‘How did I get here? Why am I here? I thought I dodged the car,'" Ben said.

He ended up on the ground 50 feet from his bike, but somehow didn’t break a single bone. Scraped knees are about the only visible remnants of the day, though he’s still battling effects of a concussion that could have been much worse, if not for his helmet.

Ben Jablonski helemt
Ben Jablonski's helmet likely saved the Billings 8-year-old from much worse injuries when he was hit by a car while riding his bike on Oct. 4.

"I’m feeling better than before," Ben said. "I get better and better every day."

But the happy ending isn't necessarily the ending.

"Once we found out Ben was going to recover," Johnna said, "the one thing I felt in my heart is that I don’t want any parent to have to witness that, to have to go through that."

Johnna is frustrated the woman who hit Ben was just given a careless driving citation, but she and Toenyes are now focused on the "safe route" the City of Billings published for students at Poly Drive Elementary, which Ben was traveling on.

"It says Lyman Avenue is a safe route to school," she said, "yet there are no stop signs; it's uncontrolled; no crossing guards; no crosswalks."

Poly drive safe route
Lyman Avenue, where Ben Jablonski was hit by a car while riding his bike, is listed as a walking street on Poly Drive Elementary's Safe Route.

According to the school, the city created a team that researched, walked, and designed the safe routes throughout the city.

Jablonski, Toenyes and other Poly Drive parents will present a letter to the Billings City Council urging for more safety measures along Lyman.

In the meantime, Toys for Tots has arranged to get Ben a new bike. Mom isn’t ok with him or his sister riding one right now, but he has faith in his persuasion skills.

"I think so, because I’m really good at that," he said with a laugh.

Ben Jablonski bike
Ben Jablonski's bike suffered severe damage after he was hit by a car while riding the bike on Oct. 4.