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Blind man run over at busy Willmar intersection in critical condition

A blind man was struck Monday at the intersection of First Street South and 19th Avenue in Willmar, seen above. The driver of the vehicle fled the scene but was located later by the police. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- A 58-year-old Willmar man, who is blind, is in critical condition after he was run over by a vehicle and sustained chest injuries around 6 p.m. Monday at the intersection of First Street and 19th Avenue.

According to police reports, Thomas Dennis Sykora was walking south, crossing 19th Avenue in the crosswalk. He was using a white cane and a guide dog while wearing a bright yellow jacket with reflective tape, when he was struck and run over by a 2002 Ford pickup driven by Gary Lee Mattson, 55, of Willmar. Mattson allegedly left the scene, but was located later by law enforcement officers.

Sykora was taken by Willmar Ambulance to Rice Memorial Hospital and was later airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition as of 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. A witness reported seeing the vehicle stop, pull out to turn and then running over the pedestrian.

A Kandiyohi County Sheriff's deputy was immediately on the scene and provided medical assistance to Sykora.

The incident remains under investigation by the Willmar Police Department.

Sykora's guide dog, Nectar, did not appear to be injured in the incident.