Sept. 27, 2005
On Labor Day, when most folks weren't laboring, Nate Bollinger was delivering pizza to make extra money. Not only does the 27-year-old from Lincoln, Neb., have his own bills to worry about, he's takes care of his 18-year-old sister, Bettie, a college student. The pair shares a trailer.
Bollinger's shift that day started and ran like most, but around 7 p.m., it ended terribly. While driving along Lincoln's 10th Street, he saw a 1998 Mitsubishi Galant filling his rearview mirror quickly. Attempting to make room for the speeding car, Bollinger steered his 2004 Ford Focus toward the side of the three-lane, one-way road. Turns out that wasn't room enough.
Richard Waldron, Bollinger's boss, the Mitsubishi driver, Jeremy L. Forsgren, 28, swerved suddenly to miss another car and then veered sharply toward Bollinger. A report in the Lincoln Star-Journal said Forsgren rear-ended Bollinger at 90 mph and pushed his car 300 feet. Forsgren's car caromed off Bollinger's with such force that it sheared off a light pole before stopping.
Witnesses at the scene said when authorities and onlookers arrived to help, Forsgren argued with them — even screamed at Cara Grant, 20, an injured passenger in his own vehicle. Suspecting correctly Forsgren was under the influence of drugs, police placed him in a squad car, where the manic man kicked out a window. (Forsgren later confessed to being on a bender only Hunter. S. Thompson could love; for eight days prior to the wreck, he had taken LSD, Valium and Ecstasy, and smoked marijuana.)
Meanwhile, Bollinger was rushed to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, meaning his brain suffered massive bruising and consequent bleeding and swelling. The bulging was so bad that doctors removed a 4 x 8-inch piece of his skull (which they stored surgically in his abdomen for later replacement) to relieve the pressure. Nineteen days after the crash, he remains hospitalized in critical condition.
"He is alive, and the bottom line is they've stopped the bleeding and swelling," said Waldron, operating partner for Cornhusker PJ, a Papa John's franchisee. "They had to cauterize some blood vessels to stop the bleeding, and they've put a helmet on him to protect his head."
"They think he's going to make it, but they're not absolutely sure," Waldron said. "The doctors won't go beyond telling us where he's at each day."
Though it's of little comfort, as of this writing, Jeremy Forsgren remains in jail on a $500,000 bond. He has been charged with driving under the influence of drugs and causing serious bodily injury. Should Bollinger die, Forsgren will be charged with vehicular homicide.
What to do?
Waldron said Bollinger is receiving worker's comp coverage amounting to two-thirds of his base pay plus tips. (Take note of that, delivery drivers: He gets worker's comp tips because he reports them.) Additionally, both his car and Forsgren's were insured, but Waldron said he doesn't know how much those policies will pay or how long the money will flow.
Still, even if the insurance covers Bollinger's
medical bills, what happens if he lives? Will he recover fully and be able to work again? What happens if he's disabled? How will he earn a living then?
Nathaniel Bollinger Recovery Fund
Send donations to P.O. Box 4617, Lincoln, NE 68504, or make them at any Wells Fargo Bank by making a deposit to account #2347152460.
Understandably, Bollinger's coworkers are upset about their friend's plight.
"We've said that if we could clone him, we would," Waldron said, adding that Bollinger worked off and on for the franchise about six years. "He's a good employee; everybody likes him. ... They've been donating money to him."
Every day someone from the crew brings food to family members at the hospital. When they visit him, "Every one of them breaks down. It's hard on them," Waldron said.
Knowing Bollinger will face some financial struggles if he recovers, an account (named the Nathaniel Bollinger Recovery Fund) has been set up by Wells Fargo Bank to receive contributions to him and his family. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 4617, Lincoln, NE 68504, or they can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank to account #2347152460. All donations are tax deductible.
As proven by your rapid and selfless response to victims of Hurricane Katrina, pizza operators are among the most generous people in this nation. That was an outpouring to complete strangers, so maybe this time the industry could help out one of its own.