FAIRFAX (KPIX 5) — Life can change in an instant for any of us. For 16-year-old Louie Vaccaro of Fairfax, it happened on Christmas Eve last year.
The Marin County teenager was with a group of friends when the SUV they were in overturned on Lucas Valley Road and rolled two-and-a-half times.
“All I remember is just ‘Bang’ and then it was just ‘Thump, thump, thump.’ I didn’t even feel it rolling,” Louie told KPIX 5 as he sat in a wheelchair at Kaiser Permanente’s rehabilitation hospital in Vallejo.
Sitting right behind Louie was 19-year-old Dameon Reeder. “We were listening to music pretty loud. Everybody was talking,” Reeder recalled.
“We were coming around the turn and we started drifting and the two right tires popped up,” he said.
The 18-year-old driver tried to correct, but the California Highway Patrol said the 2003 Chevy Tahoe was going too fast.
The vehicle rolled and came to rest upside down at the side of a hill.
While the other five passengers were able to climb out of the overturned car, Louie was in the front passenger seat, dangling upside down and barely able to breathe.
Reeder, suffering from a double concussion and well as leg and hip injuries, crawled back into the car to rescue Louie.
Louie was rushed to the hospital, but with major neck and spine injuries, he was paralyzed. It took weeks before he could even breathe on his own.
Now, with only 16 years of life behind him, Louie has to relearn how to envision his future. He will no longer be able to ride motocross dirt bikes, at least not like he used to.
Louie said he has already seen a video of a paralyzed motocross rider who uses a specially built bike. “When I saw the video, I was like, ‘I want to do that,’” he said.
Louie Vaccaro certainly isn’t in his room asking that the world feel sorry for him. And he certainly isn’t feeling sorry for himself.
“You can’t be sad because you’re never going to get anywhere,” Vaccaro said.
Louie wants to get back to class and his friends at Drake High School. He says, “Just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you have to say, ‘Oh darn, my life is over’. It’s just starting. I’m only 16. I’ve got a long way to go.”
The Town of Fairfax has rallied around the victims of the crash, holding several fundraisers. There are two more scheduled this month. Information is available at: www.vaccarofund.org.