LANCASTER – Driving to his second day of work at Antelope Valley Harley Davidson, 19-year-old Zac Lutz was involved in a motorcycle accident.
Zac was driving north on 45th Street West the morning of April 24, heading toward Quartz Hill Road, when a woman in ’99 Dodge pickup truck u-turned in front of him, said Clyde Merrick, Lutz’s stepdad.
“I feel like she didn’t look. Zac was in lane where he was very easy to see,” he said. “Had she really looked in the mirror, she would have seen him.”
Merrick added that Zac was driving next to a long row of parked cars, which was highly unusual for the neighborhood. He said because of those cars, the deputy claimed inexperience on Zac’s part. Being a motorcyclist himself, Merrick said Zac was doing exactly what he should have been doing.
According to witness statements, Zac crashed around 40-50 mph landing face-first, Merrick said.
Zac’s injuries are extensive. His brain had swelling the first few days, but it has subsided quite a bit; he also had a concussion and has a brain injury, Merrick said.
Doctors said his head injury is improving “better than expected,” he said.
He has multiple face fractures and a broken jaw. Zac’s left elbow, wrist, and thumb are broken and two very high ribs are broken. Zac already had surgery on his right femur, which was broken in several pieces. He will have surgery to replace his left knee Tuesday because it was completely dislocated. The doctors also said his left leg has nerve damage, which may be permanent.
“Zac’s got so much determination and will power on anything he does, so we’ll let Zac have the say on if that’s permanent or not,” Merrick said.
After each surgery, Zac has been given blood, and he will need more of it coming up, Merrick said. Antelope Valley Outpatient Imaging Center (AVOIC) is donating blood in Zac’s name three days this week, he added.
Blood donations will take place at 44105 15th Street West on Tuesday May 1 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Wednesday May 2 from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Thursday May 3 from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
“It doesn’t matter the blood type, and if they don’t use your blood for Zac, they’ll put it in the bank and they can use it for someone else,” he said. “We want to see as many people do that as possible.”
Realistically, Merrick said the recovery time for Zac will be multiple years. After his surgery Tuesday, Zac will be at the AV Hospital between one to three weeks. Then he will need brain and physical rehabilitation in another facility.
“He’s going to be in hospital somewhere for the next three months. This road to recovery will be epic in nature,” Merrick said. “It’s a major major set back.”
He had ambitious goals in life, but those plans are now uncertain, Merrick said.
Close friend Ivy Bedard said she thinks a lot of things are going to be different now, but she does not doubt that Zac will get better.
“He’s already showing good signs,” Bedard said. “He’s surprising everyone right now.”
Some of the major plans that may change are his wedding date and his career goals.
Zac and his fiancée have already sent out invitations for their wedding in a few months, but they’re not sure if that’s going to be able to happen, Merrick said. He also said Zac’s career goal was to be a deputy Sheriff in the SWAT Team. Zac had joined the Army as a soldier, as well as joined the Sheriff’s Explorer program to get in as soon as he could.
After hearing about the crash, Capt. Daniel Hernandez, commander of the Los Alamitos Reserve Center, came out and helped the family get the facts on what really happened to Zac, said Merrick. He added that someone from the Army has been there for them asking if they can do anything to help.
“That’s been remarkable,” Merrick said. “I feel like a part of something big. People are rallying around a United States soldier.”
“It’s been phenomenal, the support we’re receiving,” he added. “It’s kind of an ironic twist that it takes a tragedy to unite people.”
Even the family dynamic is changing, Merrick said.
“We’ve put every bit of differences aside. This has brought all of us together,” Merrick said. “Stacy (Zac’s stepmom) been there for Jeff (Zac’s dad), and I’ve been there for Robin (Zac’s mom).”
Merrick said their lives right now are completely focused on Zac’s recovery.
“Zac’s the one who crashed on the motorcycle, but we’re all going through it,” he said.
To help with the medical bills, Bedard has organized a car wash fundraiser.
The fundraiser will be held May 12 at the Antelope Valley Harley Davidson from 8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Pre-sale tickets are $5 for cars and $7 for trucks. Tickets on the day of the car wash will be $8 for cars and $10 for trucks.
People can go to the Antelope Valley High School District office or the public Facebook page here to purchase a ticket in advance, Bedard said.
As Miss Antelope Valley, Bedard has organized and participated in many fundraisers, but because this is personal for her, it is a different experience.
“It means a whole lot more to do this now,” she said.