By Steve Frothingham
Fausto Esparza Munoz, the Tecos-Trek rider who crashed Sunday at New Mexico’s Tour of the Gila, remains in an El Paso hospital paralyzed below his midsection. Doctors say the likelihood of a full recovery of movement is “discouraging,” according to a source familiar with Esparza’s condition.
Esparza is in critical but stable condition in the intensive care unit of El Paso’s Thomason Hospital, a hospital spokesman said Tuesday.
Esparza told responders at the scene that he could not move or feel his legs, according to responders at the scene and a team staffer.
Doctors operated on him Sunday to try to fuse the spine near the T7 vertebra. But following the operation Esparza’s lower body remained paralyzed and without sensation, the source said.
Esparza, whose helmet shattered in the crash, apparently suffered no serious head injuries. He told responders at the scene that he never lost consciousness and he has been talking to family at the hospital, the source said. He did break several ribs and suffered a collapsed lung.
Esparza, 33, finished second in the 2006 Univest Grand Prix in Pennsylvania and has a number of top results in Latin American races. His teammate, Gregorio Ladino Vega, won the Gila overall, while Esparza was in 19th at the start of the final stage.
The crash happened on the longest stage of the Gila, the 106-mile Gila Monster race. On the first major climb Ladino had attacked the lead group, which contained race leader Tom Zirbel. Ladino said later he attacked to try to avoid riding the very high-speed descent in a pack. He started the descent with about a 40-second head start.
At least six members of a chase group, including Esparza and Zirbel, crashed on a right turn about half way down. Zirbel broke his collar bone, some ribs and a finger. He was released from the Silver City hospital Sunday afternoon.
Esparza was driven a short distance in an ambulance and then flown by helicopter about an hour to the El Paso hospital.
It was the most serious accident in the 22-year history of the Gila.
Supporters in Silver City have established an account for Esparza. Donations can be made to:
Wells Fargo Bank
1201 N. Pope St.
Silver City, NM 88061
Attn: Fausto Munoz Esparza Donation Fund.
Letters can be sent to:
Patient: Fausto Esparza, ICU/12
c/o Thomason Hospital
4815 Alameda Ave.
El Paso, TX, 79905