Close call for El Jebel teen | AspenTimes.com

Close call for El Jebel teen

Rick CarrollThe Aspen TimesAspen CO Colorado

Contributed photoThe motorcycle Zac Hill was riding when he was struck by an elk the morning of June 11.

EL JEBEL – Zac Hill is just thankful he’s alive to relay the story of one dreadful morning in June.The Basalt High School graduate, who lives in El Jebel, was riding his mother’s Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle to work along Highway 82. He had left at 4:10 that morning for Above It All Balloon Co., where he’s a crew member.Some 30 minutes later, at mile marker 33 in the eastbound lane near the turn-off for Wildcat Ranch, Hill spotted two elk crossing the highway. He didn’t have time to avoid barreling the motorcycle into the leader.”Next thing I remember, I was just rolling,” said Hill, 18. “It all happened in about 10 seconds. It was super fast.”As Hill recalls it, he rolled about 30 feet into the grass along the highway’s shoulder. “I felt pain shooting through my right leg,” he said. “I thought it might be broken. My fingers were really cold.”As he lay on the ground, two men carpooling to work at the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority spotted Hill. “All I could ask them is if they could take off my helmet,” he said.Soon after, his boss pulled up, and eventually, so did an ambulance, which took him to Aspen Valley Hospital.That was June 11. Now, more than weeks later, Hill is walking and talking with ease. He didn’t break any bones that morning, but he lost a lot of blood from internal bleeding from his liver and pancreas, his dad said. All told, the loss accounted for about 1 liter. He also injured his sternum.”He lacerated his liver and bruised his pancreas,” said Steve Hill, Zac Hill’s father. Both father and son say it was a near brush with death. Zac Hill was fortunate enough that when he struck the elk, it was on its shoulder and neck. The elk was not as fortunate. It died.”That was probably the luckiest accident I could have gotten into,” Hill said, noting that his “thrashed” helmet was signed by well-wishers who visited him at Aspen Valley Hospital, where he initially was under the care of Dr. William Rodman. Hill said he was not physically active, due to doctor’s orders, for six weeks. He’s back to work at Above It All Balloon, and he holds down two other jobs, as well.But the out-of-pocket medical expenses stemming from the mishap linger. Or, as a flier for an upcoming fundraiser says, Hill needs help getting his young life back on track.A benefit is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Aug. 25 at Stubbies Sports Bar & Eatery in Basalt with live music, a belly-dancing exhibition, a silent auction and a raffle. Those younger than 21 are welcome, while an ID will be necessary to purchase alcohol. More info is available at 970-710-1350.Steve Hill said his son is a responsible motorcycle rider and has been riding since he was a kid.”He’s not some 18-year-old kid on a crotch rocket,” Steve Hill said. “When he’s on a bike, he’s alert, and he’s not reckless.”Zac Hill said there’s not much he could have done differently that morning. He was driving 60 mph but did not have his high-beam activated.”I had maybe one second to react,” he said. Hill and his father expressed gratitude to the RFTA drivers who initially helped him, along with the hospital employees who cared for him during his two-day stay.Hill plans to attend Colorado Mountain College this fall semester, with his sights set on joining the Navy in two years.rcarroll@aspentimes.com