Man holds ‘Prius family reunion’ 3 years after he nearly died when vehicle fell on him
REXBURG, Idaho — Stephen Parker is passionate about a few things: his wife, his children, his job, his faith and his favorite car.
No, we’re not talking about a sports car, a cool truck or a fancy antique. Stephen Parker is obsessed with the energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly Toyota Prius.
“A good friend of mine had one about five years ago, and I took it for a test drive,” Parker tells EastIdahoNews.com. “I love computers, and in the car, you can track gas mileage, battery charges, different stats and everything. I just fell in love with it.”
Parker knew he had to buy one. And then another. And then another. In fact, he has personally owned 20 Prii (yes, that’s what you call more than one Prius) and repaired around 150 since 2014.
But three years ago last week, the 46-year-old nearly lost his life working on the car he loves so much. Parker was in his backyard underneath a Prius when it slipped off a jack and fell on top of him.
The only person around was his 8-year-old son, J.T. The boy, who weighed about 50 pounds at the time, quickly adjusted the jack and jumped up and down on the handle.
After the Prius was off his dad, J.T. ran to get his older brother, Mason, who was inside the house. The 17-year-old called 911, and Stephen was flown to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in critical condition.
“They did a bunch of scans on me, MRIs and EKGs, and all they found was 13 broken ribs,” Parker told EastIdahoNews.com in 2017. “That’s all they found. Nothing internal was damaged. It was just a miracle.”
Parker went home two days later, and J.T. was later honored by the American Red Cross for his heroic actions. The young boy believes angels helped him lift up the jack, and his story was shared by numerous media outlets around the world.
After he recovered, Parker was back to repairing Prii within weeks, although he admits he was nervous the first time he went underneath a car. He now triple checks the jack stands and only uses them in his garage on concrete.
The “Prius Whisperer,” as friends and family members call him, buys slightly damaged vehicles from auctions or dealerships. He brings them home, makes repairs with his sons, and sells them at reasonable prices.
“I’m not here to make money on it. In fact, the money I do make goes into my kids’ missionary funds,” Parker says. “J.T. likes to help me, and I pay him $1 an hour. We fix the simple things, like a broken fender or taillight or something basic. I just love these cars and want everybody to have one.”
Parker has acquired Toyota Prius models ranging in year from 2006-2018, and some often have over 200,000 miles on their engines. One vehicle had around 500,000 miles.
“These cars last forever. The mileage really doesn’t matter on these because they last so long,” he says with a laugh. “I feel like a doctor, and I get to do surgery on them. I save them from a scrapyard and give them new life.”
To celebrate his passion, Parker held a Toyota Prius reunion last week in Rexburg, where the owners of 15 vehicles he had worked on gathered for a “family photo.” He brought doughnuts and chocolate milk to the party.
“It was so fun to get together and see all the cars,” Parker says. “All my coworkers have one, my family has one, and a lot of my friends have one. We got to show them off and are going to make this an annual event.”
Parker is thankful he’s still alive to pursue his Prius passion and spread his love to others. He plans to continue to fix the cars and one day, the Prius family reunion may fill an entire parking lot.
“This is the most awesome car. It’s so far ahead of its time,” Parker says. “I sould work for Toyota because I love them so much.”