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UPDATE: Man who died was 'thrown into the air' when Toyota hit him at Publix, refused to go to hospital, police say

Despite witnesses accounts that 84-year-old Willis Smith was "thrown into the air" Wednesday by the impact of a Toyota 4Runner backing out of a parking space at the Publix supermarket on Macon Road, the 17th Avenue resident afterward refused to be taken to a hospital for examination, police said.

But eventually Smith did wind up at The Medical Center, where he died Thursday from his injuries, said Coroner Bill Thrower.

According to a report on the accident that happened about 11 a.m. Wednesday, a 65-year-old Columbus woman was backing her 2007 4Runner from one of the diagonal spaces in the 3201 Macon Road Publix parking lot when Smith walked behind her.

Witnesses told police the vehicle hit Smith's right hip, propelling him into the air.

One witness, a Phenix City man, told officers he heard Smith yelling "Hey! Hey! Hey!" at the 4Runner's driver to make her stop, but she kept backing up, even after she hit him.

A second witness, a Phenix City woman, told investigators she walked past Smith, heard tires "squeaking," and turned back to see the 4Runner hit Smith, who "went into the air and struck the ground, striking the back of his head on the roadway," police reported. She told officers the vehicle continued backing up until it stopped "halfway over the pedestrian's body."

A third witness, who lives in Pine Mountain, told investigators she was trying to find a parking space when she saw the 4Runner hit Smith's hip, "tossing him into the air." Smith hit the pavement right in front of her car, forcing her to stop, she told police.

Investigators reported that Smith told them "he did not remember being struck by a vehicle and did not know what the police were talking about." He had cuts and bruises on both arms and the back of his head was scraped, police said.

It was not clear when Smith, who lived at 1921 17th Ave., finally was taken to The Medical Center. Thrower said he was pronounced dead there at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.

Columbus police are investigating the fatality.

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