Many friends of the airport know that FMAA Board Member and Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle was involved in a serious cycling accident in St. George, Utah, in October. Beyond leaving him with multiple injuries, the ordeal taught Fritz several important lessons and changed his outlook on life.
Fritz was born and raised here in the Wood River Valley. Over the years, he’s seen a tremendous amount of change and growth—most of it for the better. The addition of the bike path was a bonus for Fritz and his friends, many of whom are avid road cyclists. Fritz got into road biking at a young age, and whether he was exploring the ranch land south of Bellevue or racing off the top of Galena summit, the thrill and enjoyment of being on his road bike has always been a constant in his life.
When this past October rolled around, Fritz and his buddy traveled to St. George to ride in the warmer weather. He had no idea at the time how quickly and dramatically his life was about to change. Fritz was cruising down Snow Canyon between 35 and 40 mph—nothing too crazy, especially considering his cycling history—when his front tire exploded. Fritz said it sounded like a rifle shot; he vaguely remembers the explosion and a short time later his buddying saying, “Don’t worry, help is on the way.”
Upon impact, Fritz landed directly on his head (thank goodness for great helmets) and broke his glenoid cavity (part of the shoulder), clavicle (collarbone), and acetabulum (pelvis). He was admitted to the hospital and in traction for five days before he could finally have surgery. Fritz ended up with 13 screws in his hip along with an apparatus that looks like a railroad track to repair the damage from his wreck.
After 10 days in the hospital, Fritz was relocated to a rehab center in St. George. While in rehab, he worked extremely hard to make progress. He and another gentleman rooted one another on in their day-to-day physical therapy sessions, keeping each other motivated and determined. More than a month after his accident, Fritz was finally able to make the 10-hour drive back to the Wood River Valley. He cherished every second of that ride home, no matter how long it took. The three weeks Fritz spent in rehab had been an eye-opening experience—a preview of “our elder years,” he explained. Reflecting on his situation, Fritz realized he had found a new perspective. “Accidents like this really open your eyes to the world,” he said. “It’s really more beautiful, more kind, and more thankful, and it makes me appreciate the small things in life.”
Since his return home, Fritz has been steadily improving. When we asked him when he was expected to make a full recovery, he surprised us with his response: “You know, I have never asked that question. I take my day-to-day victories where I can find them, like standing when I shower or walking better each day. I know one day I will be back on my bike, hopefully this spring, but for now I am working on being better each day.” After a moment, he added that no matter how active, healthy, or outgoing one may be, “We all need to walk a better life.” Take that advice as you wish, but remember that taking a moment to be kind can make a big impact on others.
In the end, the accident motivated Fritz to be a better person and to essentially take time to smell the roses. Fritz concluded with, “In airport terms, it makes me try to be nicer to Larry.”