Student athlete seriously hurt in crash |

Student athlete seriously hurt in crash

Will Bublitz
Grand County Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

A car accident near Grand Lake Sunday may have left Zack Peterson paralyzed. Peterson was one of Middle Park High School’s top athletes in the Class of 2008.

Peterson, 18, the son of Jim Peterson and Suzi Maki of Grand Lake, is recovering in intensive care at St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver after undergoing several hours of surgery.

Peterson was involved in a one-vehicle accident just after midnight Sunday on U.S. Highway 34. He was flown by Flight For Life helicopter to St. Anthony’s, where he was rushed into intensive care and later underwent surgery for his extensive injuries.

On Monday afternoon, his mother Suzi Maki reported that Zack is conscious and attempting to deal with his condition.

“He’s in a lot of pain, but he’s gotten his sense of humor back,” she said. “In the accident, he broke his back and damaged his spinal cord as well as breaking some ribs and puncturing his lungs. The doctors had to put two rods in his back.

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“He has no feeling in his lower body, but we’re holding out hope that he will walk again.”

According to Cpl. Darrell Salberg of the Granby office of the Colorado State Patrol, Peterson was returning to his Grand Lake home after a day in Denver when he apparently fell asleep behind the wheel of his vehicle.

“His dad, Jim Peterson, told me he had called earlier that night to tell him he was on his way home, but said he was really tired,” Salberg said. “In my opinion, there is no doubt he fell asleep behind the wheel.”

The accident occurred 12 miles north of Granby at the intersection of U.S. Highway 34 and County Road 4650 about 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

Peterson’s vehicle went off the left side of the highway, crossed the county road where it struck a rock, went airborne and rolled over onto its top.

Rescuers from Grand County EMS, the Grand Lake Fire Department, Grand County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado State Patrol responded to the accident scene. Peterson had to be extracted from his wrecked vehicle.

Due to the seriousness of the 18-year-old’s injuries, a Flight For Life helicopter landed adjacent to the accident site a few minutes after 1 a.m. and he was flown directly to St. Anthony’s.

“It was really fortunate that he was wearing his seatbelt and his vehicle’s airbags deployed properly. They probably saved his life,” Salberg said.

What’s next?

Having survived the accident and the surgery, Peterson has a long road of recovery before him. The plans are to transfer him to the Craig Hospital in Denver ” a world-famous medical facility that specializes in rehabilitating patients from spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.

“It was a miracle that Zack survived the accident,” said his mother. “We’re asking everybody to pray for him because we now need another miracle.”

Peterson is expected to remain at St. Anthony’s Central Hospital, 4231 West 16th Ave. in Denver for a week before being transferred to Craig Hospital. He is in Room 204 and can be reached at (303) 629-3511.

A fund has been set up at Grand Mountain Bank for donations to help the Peterson family. Donations for the “Zachary Peterson Fund” may be made at any branch or mailed to PO. Box 749, Grand Lake, CO 80447.

Peterson was one of the 88 seniors of the Class of 2008 at Middle Park High School who graduated on May 31.

During his high school years, he was one of his school’s star athletes earning varsity letters in boys soccer, wrestling and track. He was one of the Panthers’ five athletes who qualified and competed in the 2008 Colorado High School Track and Field Championships held in Pueblo in May.

His plans for the fall were to attend Mesa State College in Grand Junction.

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