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Paraplegic athlete hit by truck in Fairview days before international championship race

By Hannah Mackenzie

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — An Asheville man was charged with failing to reduce speed after hitting and injuring a cyclist in the Fairview area on Tuesday, July 26, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

The cyclist, Dustin Baker, is a U.S. Air Force veteran. Baker was paralyzed from a spinal cord injury sustained overseas. He turned to racing as a way to escape and was training for an upcoming race when the motorist hit him on Lower Brush Creek Road.

“That’s your little bit of reprieve, that’s your chance to get out, not be clouded with all those different things going through your head and just recharge a little,” he said.

Baker is no stranger to overcoming challenges.

“I always look at it like, what’s the silver lining?”

Baker’s silver lining has led to gold. He’s competed across the country excelling at the sport. After securing a spot in the 2022 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Canada this August, Baker was training on July 26, when his first-place medal dreams were dashed.

Someone in a truck hit him from behind.

“With the handcycle, you lay out flat, so the impact was directly on my head and my shoulder,” Baker said. “I ended up with three broken ribs, I’ve got a damaged rotator cuff, lacerations to the face, a concussion and road rash over half the back and then lacerations on the chest.”

In addition to his injuries, baker’s $35,000 handcycle was destroyed. His wife, Jodie, grateful the accident wasn’t worse.

“There is nothing repairable from this, unfortunately,” Jodie Baker said. “That could have been him, this could be him laying here in pieces.”

But nothing can keep this 41-year-old down. His sights are already set on rehabilitating his shoulder for the next race. He said he will be back on the road training as soon as possible, and has a word of caution for motorists:

“Be patient, be aware don’t be on the phones,” Baker said. “It’s really easy to miss an upright bike or a hand-cyclist. Just support us in our effort.”

The Bakers had a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the upcoming championships, that page now more of an effort to help Dustin get a new hand-cycle. He said they do not have insurance.

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