A cyclist who is recovering from serious injuries months after being hit by a truck in Huntington Beach is getting a lot of help from an unlikely new friend: the driver who struck him.
The crash that altered the lives of Tom Sovilla and Jack Keith happened along Pacific Coast Highway on May 25.
Keith was headed home after surfing and momentarily became distracted while looking at the ocean and accidentally hit Sovilla, who was on a bike ride from La Habra to Seal Beach.
“It happened so fast. I don’t know where everything was, but all I remember was Tom flying through the air, like 30 feet, and I just freaked out,” Keith said, his voice choked with emotion.
Sovilla was rushed to a hospital after suffering injuries that nearly left him dead. He had a fractured back, a broken pelvis, torn knee ligaments, bruised intestines and two blood clots on his brain, according to a news release from UCI Medical Center in Orange, where Sovilla spent the next month after the collision.
But far from being angry and bitter over what happened, Sovilla wanted to forgive the driver and assure him that he would be all right.
“Holding onto things just eats away at you. It doesn’t necessarily hurt the other person,” Sovilla said. “I think if people can understand that, then people would learn to forgive, because forgiveness is a big part about your own mental and physical health.”
Five days into his 33-day hospital stay, Sovilla had his wife reach out to Keith. She got his number and sent him a message.
“I got a text from Jenette saying, ‘Hey, this is Tom’s wife Jenette — the guy you hit. We’ve been trying to get hold of you, we’ve been praying for you and we just want you to know that he’s OK,’ ” Keith recalled. “I was blown away.”
It was the beginning of an unlikely friendship.
While Sovilla continues to undergo rehabilitation, Keith has been doing what he can to help the family.
Keith — a carpenter by trade — did some work at Sovilla’s home to make it easier for him to get around with his limited mobility.
He also started a GoFundMe web page to help with medical costs.
“My insurance paid out the max, which wasn’t much,” Keith said on the fundraising page, which he started June 29. “His insurance has paid the bulk of the hospital bills. But he is stuck with $7,000 having to come out of pocket.”
As of Monday night, the GoFundMe effort had raised more than $3,200.
Sovilla says he plans to keep cycling — though he may not be riding on roads like PCH anymore.