NEW ORLEANS - It started off as a day of celebration and ended with a life threatening head injury that sent a Tulane student to the hospital.
The victim says he was on his bicycle when a passing driver beat him unconscious on Mardi Gras Day.
When Will Sampson ventured out on Mardi Gras day, he never expected he would end up in the Oschner Medical Center ICU.
“My brain was hemorrhaging and I could have died, and that's really frightening,” said Sampson, who was still in the ICU Thursday night.
It started around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, when Sampson was biking home with a friend near Press and St. Claude, according to Sampson. Sampson said a car made a u-turn in an effort to avoid a train crossing the tracks at that intersection.
Sampson said the silver Nissan Altima crossed over two lanes of traffic, and into the bike lane, nearly hitting him and his friend.
That’s when the unexpected happened.
“This guy just got out of his car and it was really quick, he just came up to me and punched me in the face,” said Sampson.
Sampson fell backward, suffering a concussion and a fractured jaw. He doesn't remember the incident. Everything he knows about what happened, he's heard from his friend, Mike Luberda, who was on the scene with him.
“I hear this deafening crack,” said Luberda. “I'm still shaken that I saw his eyes go up into his head, laying on the ground there.”
Luberda said the driver appeared intoxicated and fled the scene when Sampson lost consciousness. He said almost no words were exchanged.
“I was so astounded there was no vocal interface, just straight up aggression because he thought you know we weren't supposed to be on the road. He was just, obviously completely unaware bike lanes exist for a reason,” said Luberda.
Sampson, a Tulane student from Colorado, said it's making him reconsider his plans to make New Orleans his long-term home.
“If this guy is not caught, it means that chaos is allowed to reign in the streets and that our police force is not capable of keeping it under control, and unfortunately that's the stereotype that is attached to our city,” said Sampson.
For now, Sampson is working to recover and comprehend how a passing driver could beat a cyclist unconscious and flee the scene. New Orleans Police say fifth detectives are still trying gather more information on any possible suspects or what may have prompted the incident.
Detectives interviewed Sampson in his hospital room Thursday night.
They said the license plate number given by witnesses did not check out.
Meanwhile, Luberda describes the driver as a 5'10" white male in a silver Nissan Altima with Louisiana plates ending in "344."
If you have any information that could help police, call the Fifth District or Crimestoppers at 504-822-1111.