Benjamin Van HandelSomeone shouted that a car was on the sidewalk, and pedestrian Katelynn Hanson spun on her heel to see a pair of headlights bearing down on her and her two friends.

A split second later, as she lay on the ground early Friday, she saw the taillights of the wayward car receding in the distance. Close by lay two other victims, one critically injured.

"By the time we saw the headlights, we were already knocked down," Hanson, 21, said just a few hours after being released from the hospital.

The hit-and-run driver, who remained at large Friday, was going the wrong way on SE. 5th Street near the University of Minnesota when he or she struck Hanson and the others near 12th Avenue at about 2 a.m., according to police. Fifth Street is one-way eastbound in that area.

Benjamin Van Handel, 23, of Appleton, Wis., in photo above right, was in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center with a severe brain injury and multiple broken bones, according to his family.

Sarah Bagley, 21, of Minneapolis, was in satisfactory condition with a concussion, injuries to her knee and elbow, and a chipped tooth, according to her family. The victims all were students at the U.

Van Handel's family said in a message to the newspaper that they wanted to thank the emergency medical technicians, police and medical staff who have helped them. Van Handel is an economics major who is to graduate next month. His loved ones asked that friends and family "continue to pray for Ben to make a full recovery."

Investigators searched Friday for an early 2000s, white, four-door Toyota Camry or Solara with front-end damage, said Minneapolis police Sgt. Stephen McCarty.

Knocked out of shoes

Hanson, who was released from the hospital at 6:30 a.m. Friday, said she feels lucky to have escaped with just a bump on her head and a sore leg.

She said she and friends Bagley and Joseph Bailin, 22, had been at the Kitty Kat Club celebrating their recent acceptance into graduate school to study architecture. A few minutes before 2 a.m. they decided to walk to Bailin's place a few blocks away. They were on the sidewalk along 5th Street SE. heading west toward 12th Avenue, chatting about the cold weather, Hanson said.

"All of a sudden we heard something about a car on the sidewalk and we all turned around and looked at it. We saw headlights," she said.

The collision knocked her out of her shoes. It sent Bagley flying at least 30 feet down the street, she said. Bailin largely escaped injury, he said.

"We heard something that made us turn around, and it was coming at us pretty quickly," he said. "You don't really know what to do when a car is coming at you on a sidewalk."

Bailin said they didn't get a good look at the car. "Before it hit us, there wasn't a whole lot of time," he said. "The next thing we knew, it was driving away. It kind of accelerated along the sidewalk ... just kept going" and then pulled back onto the street, he said. "It was crazy."

Bailin estimated that the car was going 30 miles per hour when it hit them. A few hours later, as Bailin searched the crash site for one of Hanson's missing shoes, he found one of Bagley's Converse sneakers -- on the other side of the street.

Bagley's father, Kilmer Bagley, said that "when the phone rings at 3 in the morning, it's never good. [Sarah] said some car was going the wrong way, and it jumped the curb and hit them."

The Minneapolis Southwest High School graduate "is in pretty good shape," considering the circumstances, her father said.

Authorities encouraged anyone with information to call Minneapolis police at 1-800-222-TIPS (1-800-222-8477). • 612-217-1747 • 612-673-4482