"Comeback Kid’ coming home | VailDaily.com

"Comeback Kid’ coming home

Kathy Heicher

Travis Hansbarger, 17, of Eagle – one of the victims of the tragic Homecoming night car accident that rocked the community – will be home for the holidays. Hansbarger will be released from Craig Hospital in Denver Friday and will return to the rehabilitation facility after Jan. 2 as an out-patient.

Hansbarger will be headed up Eagle’s Eby Creek Road between 3 and 4 p.m. in a limousine on Friday, the last day of school before Christmas break. Well-wishers are encouraged to line the road with balloons, signs, horns and pom poms and be ready to give a memorable welcome.

His mother, Debbie Stansell, said he has three goals,

– He wants to graduate with his class.

– He wants to ski this season.

– He wants to sleep in his own bed.

“I don’t think anything is going to stop him,” she says.

Stansell, her husband Tim, and Travis’ little brother, Coulter, are looking forward to a much brighter Christmas than they had anticipated after the Sept. 28 roll-over accident on Interstate 70 west of Edwards that killed 16-year-old driver Skylar Hootman and critically injured passengers Hansbarger and Homecoming Queen Laura Sandoval. Hansbarger suffered a traumatic brain injury. Sandoval was able to return to school several weeks after the accident.

“The community has been awesome. The support has helped us to get through this whole thing,” says Stansell, adding that hospital staff members have been amazed by the constant flow of support from the hometown community.

“We’ve probably wowed just about everybody talking about what Vail Resorts and the community have done for us. I think about a third of Denver wants to move back up here with us. It’s been absolutely wonderful,” she adds. “People haven’t forgotten about Skylar, Laura, or Travis.”

Stansell and her husband are employed by Vail Resorts, and the community as a whole has raised funds and demonstrated constant concern for the victims.

Stansell says her son is walking, talking and working with a tutor to get himself to the point where he can hopefully return to Eagle Valley High School. Although his brain injury is healing well, Travis doesn’t remember the month of September at all. He is expected to make a full physical recovery, and hopes to start jogging in the next week or two.

“He’s really lonely,” Stansell says. “He can’t wait to come back.”

At Craig Hospital, Travis is allowed to have visitors, although he is in classes and therapy from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are asked to telephone in advance, at 303-789-8255. Visitors will also be welcome at the family home, although advance phone calls are helpful.

After the holidays, Travis will return to Craig on Mondays through Thursdays as an out-patient.

This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.

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