Lucy Harris of Centennial paralyzed in I-70 crash near Genesee

An athletic 10-year-old girl who loves soccer, ice skating, skiing, rock climbing and other sports, will never walk again after her spine was severed in an Interstate 70 traffic crash.

Lucy Harris was paralyzed from the waist down after her family car, a 2016 Chevrolet sedan, was rear-ended July 15 while it was stopped in the westbound lanes of the interstate near Genesee.

Lucy’s mother, Jennifer Harris, who was driving the car, said she checked her rearview mirror after traffic came to a stop and glimpsed a dark, large SUV in the left lane barreling toward her car just before the violent four-vehicle crash.

“This has absolutely devastated our entire family, our entire community,” Jennifer Harris said. “Lucy is incredibly resilient, but this is absolutely life-altering for her.”

Lucy suffered multiple severe injuries in addition to her spinal cord being severed, including broken bones, bleeding in her lungs, a brain bleed and internal injuries. She’s undergone multiple surgeries.

“The doctors tell us she’ll never walk again,” Jennifer Harris said.

Jennifer Harris was also injured in the crash, suffering a concussion, a broken wrist and various cuts and bruises. Her son, 7-year-old Calvin who was also in the car, was not severely injured.

The Centennial family was heading to Copper Mountain for the Courage Classic Bicycle Tour, a bicycle fundraiser for Children’s Hospital, to watch and root for Peter Harris, Jennifer’s husband and the children’s father, who was participating and already there.

“It’s devastating to see my daughter in pain,” said Peter Harris. “She can’t feel anything from her stomach down, it’s completely devastating for our family.”

Jerold Taylor, 52, of Thornton, was driving a 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe, a large SUV, in the left lane at 70 mph when the crash happened, according to the Colorado State Patrol report on the incident.

Taylor rear-ended an Audi that was stopped for traffic in the left lane before careening into the back of the Harris family’s Malibu, pushing it toward the right lane of the highway. Meanwhile, the driver of a fourth vehicle, a Nissan Versa, that had been traveling behind Taylor, swerved to the far right lane in an attempt to avoid the collision in front of them. However, the Harris family’s car was pushed by Taylor’s Tahoe into the Versa, which flipped and landed on its roof. The Harris family’s car came to rest on the road’s right shoulder.

Taylor, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s deputy, was driving 70 mph in a 65 mph zone, according to the CSP report. He has been cited for careless driving resulting in serious bodily injury. The report said he was distracted by something outside his vehicle, without further detail.

Taylor, who was off duty at the time of the crash and was driving a personal vehicle, could not be reached for comment.

Jacki Kelly, a sheriff’s spokesperson, said the office will look at the crash internally, including whether disciplinary action is appropriate, after the state patrol investigation is complete.

“It appears to be a terrible, tragic accident,” Kelly said. “Our hearts go out to the (Harris) family.”

The driver of the Nissan, was cited for careless driving. After the crash, she was taken to a hospital by ambulance, as was Jennifer and Lucy Harris. Injuries to others suffered in the crash did not require immediate hospitalization.

Lucy, who continues to heal and has begun rehabilitation work, remains at Children’s Hospital. Her family has been spending long hours at the hospital.

“Our stay at the hospital will not be measured in days, but weeks,” Jennifer and Peter Harris said on a GoFundMe page posted to help with medical and other bills.

Peter Harris, who notes that the crash happened during daylight on a straight stretch of highway where traffic had come to a halt, feels that a “vehicular assault charge, at the very least, would be appropriate in the case.”

Meanwhile, the Harris family is buoyed by community support for Lucy, which has included lemonade stand sales to raise funds.

An update to the GoFundMe page concluded with an upbeat postscript: “P.S. Lucy picked out a pretty sweet, sporty purple chair today. She can’t wait to beat the neighborhood kids in a race upon discharge!”

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