Joe Wyatt, credits a helmet ultimately saving his son’s life.
“He had no head injury, no neck injury. His whole body was wrecked. I mean, he had injuries from here down on his entire left side. Broken pelvis, broken femer. But no head injury,” Joe explained.
On September 23rd, Joe and his son Max were coming back from school when they entered a crosswalk at South Owyhee Street and West Kootenai Street.
Joe recalls seeing a van approaching quickly. Before Joe could comprehend what was happening, Max and his bike disappeared.
"We were in the crosswalk. Both of us. It wasn't like she was turning. She was just coming straight toward us," Joe explained. "And. I was just in disbelief that she was approaching us and the horrified when Max just disappeared in front of my face. She just took him. I think about it all the time."
The driver, identified as Scholastique Twagirayesu of Boise (who was later cited for inattentive driving), hit Max.
Joe watched his son being dragged across the concrete for about 40 feet before the vehicle stopped.
In a panic, Joe started screaming for help.
Max was pinned underneath the van. All Joe could think about was getting his son out from under the minivan. He says four or five guys got on the front of the vehicle and lifted, while Joe yanked Max's arm to pull him free. Joe still doesn’t know the names of the strangers who saved his son.
Max was not breathing and Joe recalls looking down at his son’s chest which was caved in. Joe started resuscitation and after several harrowing seconds, felt Max’s heart begin to beat. An ambulance arrived on scene picking up Max and Joe taking them to Saint Alphonsus hospital in Boise.
Max’s mother, Courtney, was far away in the Owyhee County rangelands with the BLM working a prescribed burn.
While in the field at work, her crew received a message to gather due to an emergency call in Boise. Courtney learned someone in her family was involved in some sort of accident. Courtney explained that she was terrified and instantly broke down. For a long time she didn't know if it was Joe or Max.
Courtney’s managers recognized the severity of the call and flew her to Saint Alphonsus on a BLM helicopter which took about 45 minutes.
On the flight, Courtney got a few texts finally learning Max had been hit by a car while biking home from school.
When she arrived, Courtney was informed that Max was severely hurt and in surgery. Due to the severity of his injuries, he needed to be taken to Salt Lake City Burn Center.
For weeks, Max fought for his life and underwent multiple surgeries. He had third degree burns over fifteen percent of his body and need skin grafts. Max had surgeries to repair a collapsed left lung and broken bones in his left leg, pelvis and ribs.
During his time in the hospital, a GoFundMe account was organized and donations poured in from supporters. To date, over $90,000 has been raised for the family to cover hospital bills.
While Max was recovering, owner of the Boise Bicycle Project, Jimmy Hallyburton who knew the Wyatt family personally, rallied the community to address the mayor and try to make Boise safer for bicyclists.
Hallyburton launched, “The Max: No More Children Hit,” and created unique bracelets that were distributed throughout the community to raise awareness of Max’s condition and create a dialogue about bicycle safety in Boise.
Now, Max’s parents are adjusting to the new normal. Max underwent several skin graft surgeries and treating the wounds properly is essential to avoid infection. Max’s life will be forever changed and he still has a long road ahead of him of dealing with the injuries, especially as he grows.
After being in the Salt Lake City Burn Center for months, Max is home in Boise. Max and Joe arrived to a huge surprise that every child dreams about.
Joe is a smokejumper for the BLM and his crew, the Great Basin Smokejumpers, built a treehouse in the family’s yard. Complete with a deck, two stories and all of the bells and whistles that a five-year-old boy could want. Max was ecstatic.
Now, the Wyatt family is looking forward to a Christmas together, healthy and alive. And they plan to take a tragedy and make Boise a safer bicycle community for everyone.