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Driver becomes friends with cyclist he hit on highway, helps with his recovery

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HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – A cyclist recovering from serious injuries months after being hit by a truck in Southern California is getting a lot of help from an unlikely new friend -- the driver who struck him.

Tom Sovilla, left, and Jack Keith, right, are seen in a photo posted to a GoFundMe account.

Tom Sovilla, left, and Jack Keith, right, are seen in a photo posted to a GoFundMe account.

The crash that altered the lives of Tom Sovilla and Jack Keith happened along the Pacific Coast Highway in Huntington Beach on May 25, 2019, according to the two men, who shared their unusual story Monday, Jan. 13.

Keith was headed home after he'd been surfing that spring day when he suddenly became distracted while looking out at the ocean and accidentally hit Sovilla, who was out on his usual bike ride from La Habra to Seal Beach.

"It happened so fast," said Keith. "I don't know where everything was, but all I remember was Tom flying through the air, like 30 feet, and I just freaked out."

Sovilla was rushed by ambulance to the hospital after suffering injuries that nearly left him dead. He had a fractured back, broken pelvis, torn knee ligaments, bruised intestines, and two blood clots on the brain, according to a news release from UCI Medical Center in Irvine, where Sovilla spent the next month after the collision.

But far from being angry and bitter over what happened, Sovilla wanted to forgive the driver and assure him that he would be alright.

“Holding on to things just eats away at you," said Sovilla. "It doesn’t necessarily hurt the other person. I think if people can understand that, then people would learn to forgive because forgiveness is a big part about your own mental and physical health.”

So, five days into his 33-day hospital stay, Sovilla had his wife reach out to Keith. She got his number and sent him a message.

“I got a text from Jenette saying, ‘Hey, this is Tom’s wife Jenette, the guy you hit. We’ve been trying to get a hold of you. We’ve been praying for you, and we just want you to know that he’s OK,'" Keith recalled. “I was blown away.”

From there, an unlikely friendship blossomed.

With Sovilla still in rehab all these months later, Keith has been doing what he can to help out the family. For starters, Keith — a carpenter by trade — did some work at Sovilla's home to make it easier for him to get around with his limited mobility.

He also started a GoFundMe account to help with medical costs.

"My insurance paid out the max, which wasn't much. His insurance has paid the bulk of the hospital bills, but he is stuck with $7,000 having to come out of pocket," Keith explained on the fundraising page, which he started on June 29.

As of Monday afternoon, the GoFundMe had raised about $2,000 toward Sovilla's recovery effort.

For his part, Sovilla said he plans to continue cycling — although he said he may not be riding on roads like PCH in the future.

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