‘She turned to look and – Boom! They were there’

Tonya Chamberlain remains hospitalized after the crash on Jan. 7

Tonya Chamberlain, seen in an undated photo, was seriously injured in an accident when street racers collided in Gresham on Jan. 7, 2016 (GoFundMe)
Tonya Chamberlain, seen in an undated photo, was seriously injured in an accident when street racers collided in Gresham on Jan. 7, 2016 (GoFundMe)

GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) — Tonya Chamberlain had just gotten off work the night of January 7 when she stopped at a market on Halsey to pick up some cigarettes and milk.

As she pulled out of the driveway, she remembers looking both ways, her sister Christina Romero said. She thought she had time.

“She went to pull out and as she turned out, she turned to look again and — Boom! — they were right there,” Romero told KOIN 6 News.

Tonya Chamberlain was critically injured when racers hit her car on SE Halsey and 172nd, Jan. 7, 2016 (KOIN)
Tonya Chamberlain was critically injured when racers hit her car on NE Halsey and 172nd, Jan. 7, 2016 (KOIN)

Investigators said 2 teens were racing when one of them hit Chamberlain’s car so hard it split into pieces and sent parts of the transmission through the window of a hair salon. Her car came to rest 156 feet away, court documents said.

“Her engine was on one side of the street and her transmission is what went through the window of the salon,” Romero said. “He hit her really hard.”

Police arrested Dmitriy Zabolotnyy, 18, and 19-year-old Rostislav Zhuchenya. Both face charges of 2nd- and 3rd-degree assault and reckless driving. Zabolotnyy, who was taken to a hospital after the crash, also is charged with reckless endangering, criminal mischief, careless driving and speed racing.

Chamberlain, 36, was rushed to the hospital with critical injuries and remains hospitalized, possibly for another week. She’s still in a lot of pain from a concussion, a collapsed lung, a broken arm and a shattered shoulder.

“Her lung is collapsed, she’s having to do a lot of breathing treatments.”

Romero said her sister, the sole provider for 2 children, has a caring heart and works in a nursing home. She said Chamberlain is concerned for the teen suspects.

“She’s like, ‘They were young, they were dumb, everybody makes mistakes,'” Romero said. “And that’s how I see it. Everybody does make mistakes.”

“There’s places to race. There’s a time and place,” she said, “and that is not the time to do it.”

Tonya Chamberlain, seen in an undated photo with children, was seriously injured in an accident when street racers collided in Gresham on Jan. 7, 2016 (GoFundMe)
Tonya Chamberlain, seen in an undated photo with children, was seriously injured in an accident when street racers collided in Gresham on Jan. 7, 2016 (GoFundMe)

Chamberlain is most worried about her children.

“She loves both of her girls with all of her heart, and so it’s tough,” Romero said. “It’s tough seeing her in the hospital and not being the mom she always has been.”

Her family is supporting her every way they can, but she’s worried about losing her apartment and her belongings.

“I keep assuring her,” Romero said, “that’s why we have the GoFundMe, so we can keep that up.”

Suspect’s mother

Zhuchenya’s mother told KOIN 6 News her son is not guilty. “I don’t know anything, I didn’t see anything, but what I know is he was behind and just stopped to help the people who got in accident,” she said.

Christina Romero said police told her if the crash had happened a second earlier Tonya Chamberlain would have died.

“I want everybody to be aware of that split-second decision to race can cause somebody else’s life to be turned upside-down. Not just your own, but somebody else’s life.”

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GoFundMe: Tonya Chamberlain and family fund

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