by Dennis Dalman
Many people in a central Sartell neighborhood think it was an “accident waiting to happen” that severely injured 10-year-old Thomas Zimmerman on the afternoon of May 24.
It happened at 3:38 p.m. on Fifth Street near Pine Meadow Elementary School when a car and the bicycle Zimmerman was riding collided, knocking the boy from his bike, causing his face and head to collide with great force against the curb.
The other bikers were not injured.
Thomas, unconscious at first, was rushed by ambulance to the St. Cloud Hospital. He was then transferred to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. He underwent several reconstructive surgeries to repair facial damage that included his jaw broken in two places, a broken nose, a gash, lacerations and nine broken or knocked-out teeth. Fortunately, he is recovering well and should be back home soon, said his mother, Abby Fann during an interview May 26 with the Newsleader. The interview was conducted during a phone call while Fann was outside of Thomas’s room at Children’s Hospital. Taylor Zimmerman, Fann’s first husband and Thomas’s father, and Zimmerman’s wife, Hayley Kosloske, 34, (Thomas’s stepmother) was also at Thomas’s bedside while he was recovering in the hospital. Thomas lives with his mother, Abby Fann, and he has a 3-year-old sibling, Monroe Zimmerman who is shared by Taylor Zimmerman and Hayley Kosloske.
Thomas had just left for the day at Riverview Intermediate School, returned home and decided to bike with friends on the bike path that leads to a marked crossing on Fifth Street. They were on their way to meet up with another group of friends right across that street at the Pine Meadow school’s playground.
The collision occurred at the crossing. The car’s driver was a 16-year-old boy who lives in that same neighborhood. The bike riders came off of the path into the crossing so fast the car driver didn’t see them or react in time. The young car driver was devastated, as were his parents. While driving, the boy was not speeding, not distracted and not impaired in any way.
The accident happened not far from Thomas’s backyard.
Thomas’s mother first learned of the awful accident from her family’s babysitter, who was one of the friends in the group of friends Thomas and the others were on their way to meet.
The girl, who had witnessed the accident from the school grounds, immediately called Thomas’ mother. She and some others, terrified by anxiety and fear, rushed to the hospital, not knowing what to expect. Though the injuries were terrible to see, they were vastly relieved to know they were not life-threatening.
Please be cautious
The next day, Abby Fann, put three photos of her injured son on her Facebook account as a visual reminder for all drivers and bicyclists to be extra vigilant and cautious at all times, especially near crosswalks and schools.
Under the three photos on Facebook, Fann posted these words: “PLEASE. I am begging everyone to be cautious and diligent about watching for pedestrians and bicyclists now that the weather is nice.”
She then listed Thomas’s injuries, followed by “It is the LAW to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Save a life.”
Fann said she is not blaming the 16-year-old car driver. Not in the least.
“It was an ‘honest’ accident,” she said. “The boy was not distracted, he was not drinking or impaired or speeding. That boy lives right in this neighborhood, and his parents have been just great to us since the accident. They and their boy feel so bad about it.”
What Fann does blame is the bike trail where it meets the road. Like many others who live in that neighborhood, she has long been worried about how there are shrubs and trees where the trail meets the crosswalk, making it difficult for motorists to see who is on that path until almost the very moment when a pedestrian or biker enters the road at the crossing.
“It was an accident waiting to happen,” Fann said.
Some safety tips she advises are making sure kids wear helmets when biking, drivers should slow down and look carefully both ways, preparing to brake if needed, and always be vigilant for the unexpected.
Thomas’s family – mother, father, stepfather Robert Fann, an older daughter and younger son – are all eager to see him recover.
“He can move his legs and feet so we know he’ll be able to walk again,” his mother said.
Abby Fann is a 2011 Sartell High School graduate who works for CentraCare as a scribe (transcriber).
Thomas’s siblings are Evelyn, 12; and Carter, 6.
“Thomas has always been so full of energy,” said his mother. “He loves to be with friends, he loves to bike and he just loves to fish. He has a great peer group, enjoys football. He’s such a good kid!”
A GoFundMe page was set up by Abby Fann’s brother, Thomas’s uncle, to help the family cover medical expenses for Thomas.
To donate, go to: www.gofundme.com/f/uawcu-support-toms-recovery
People may also want to send get-well cards to Thomas as he recovers during the next four weeks or so.
Send cards to:
1047 Lawrence Circle
Sartell, MN 56377