Man injured by Santa Rosa teen driver fleeing authorities puts life on hold

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Andrew Giganti had big plans. He was going to go hiking in Yosemite with some of his former rugby teammates before leaving California this summer for a job on the East Coast.

Giganti had accepted a position at Development Alternatives Inc., a private company in Maryland that connects small businesses in the developing world with larger international corporations. But after finishing a shift at Santa Rosa’s Bollywood Bar & Clay Oven on May 24, Giganti’s world was turned upside down while he was sitting at a red light on College Avenue.

A 17-year-old Santa Rosa driver fleeing officers slammed into his Ford Focus, rolling the car over and seriously injuring the 23-year-old Maryland native, according to the CHP.

The officer had tried to pull the teen’s Mustang over for a traffic violation on Santa Rosa Avenue just after 10 p.m. However, the teen fled onto Highway 101, where he reached speeds of over 100 mph before taking the College Avenue exit and slamming into Giganti’s car, CHP said.

The teen, whose name was not released by authorities because he’s a minor, escaped injuries. He jumped out of his Mustang and fled on foot before officers caught up to him and arrested him on suspicion of felony evading and hit-and-run causing injuries, CHP said.

“The impact was something I never felt before,” Giganti said. “I certainly expected with the force and everything that things were going to go black.”

A bystander ran up to Giganti’s overturned car and moved the airbag out of the way to get a better look at him. Worried he suffered brain trauma, Giganti asked the man to use his iPhone flashlight to check the injuries on his face.

Officers, who had been following the teen, quickly arrived at the crash site and called an ambulance. They helped Giganti out of the car.

Giganti avoided any head trauma, but injuries to his legs were so severe that doctors say he won’t walk on his own for three more months. It’ll be another month after that before he can lift weights.

“I can’t work out and take care of myself. For 10 days, I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without assistance,” Giganti said about a week ago. “I took a shower yesterday, and I was lying down in the shower. It’s all these things you do in your daily life, and you think, oh my gosh, I can’t even do that anymore. I have to ask my mom to do it.”

Giganti had always lived an active lifestyle, playing various sports in grade school and rugby for the Seahawks at St. Mary’s College in Maryland. He hadn’t played rugby since coming to Santa Rosa last October, but he kept up a CrossFit workout routine and planned outings like the Yosemite trip.

He moved to Santa Rosa as part of his work with AmeriCorps. The agency assigned him to Santa Rosa Community Health Centers’ Baby Closet program, where he helped distribute baby clothing to fire survivors struggling to pay for necessities. He said the program is in need of volunteers.

Giganti always had a passion for helping the less fortunate, said his sister, Julia Giganti. She said her brother’s intelligence and caring for others inspired her ever since they were little.

“My brother might be six years younger than me, but I look up to him,” she said. “He has the personality. He has the brains. He might not know how to do laundry the perfect way, but he as a whole is a package deal.”

When Giganti was a sophomore in college, his father died. His connection to his rugby teammates and his passion for making the world a better place helped him work through it, Julia Giganti said.

“Being active and giving back has always been his, I guess you would say, therapy, for lack of a better word,” she said. “He’s a strong kid, but no one deserves this type of accident.”

Giganti’s family members, who live out of state and had to travel to California to care for him in the aftermath of the accident, keenly felt the impact, too.

“When something like this happens, it impacted my mom and my sister as much as it did me,” Giganti said. “It’s a domino in the person’s life, in the victim’s life.”

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com.

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