By Jamie Leary

DENVER (CBS4) – A 62-year-old man who was struck by An alleged drunk driver while making his way home in a wheelchair has passed away.

Just before 3 p.m. Tom Ackerman’s family stood by his hospital bedside side as doctors took him off life support.

“It’s been absolutely devastating,” said Michael Smith, Ackerman’s son.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Doctors informed Ackerman’s family that he had less than a one percent chance of waking up on his own and that his injuries were too severe to be fixed with surgery.

“His spine was broken in two different places. He broke 18 ribs, he punctured both of his lungs, he has an air pocket in his chest.” said Smith.

Ackerman was a wheelchair due to an old football injury and was prepping to have double knee surgery. Despite his ongoing knee issues, his family said nothing slowed him down. In fact, on the night he was struck, he had just made the trek via bus, all the way from King Soopers on Yosemite, to his home on Quincy. More than 15 miles away.

“He was a jokester. He loved being a little more carefree he was always a really good person he helped me every step of the way through my whole life and I love him with all of my heart,” said Smith.

Ackerman was struck Wednesday night just before 7 p.m. right outside of his apartment.

Gaele Lopez (credit: Denver Police Department)

Gaele Lopez (credit: Denver Police Department)

Police believe the man behind the wheel, Gaele Lopez, 35, may have been drunk. Arresting documents say he was swaying, his breath smelled of alcohol and he performed poorly on a field sobriety test.

Smith says making matters worse is the looming financial burden.

“They (his parents) were very tight on money, they didn’t have extra funds set up and unfortunately, especially this time of year we don’t have extra funds to give them, so my mom’s very concerned about making her rent and paying her heat bill and paying for food and that’s our main concern right now,” said Smith.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Smith has a message for the driver.

“I forgive you. We don’t want any ill will towards you or yours and it’s a horrible accident and I hope that you are more careful in the future but we don’t hold any ill will toward you.”

Lopez has yet to be charged. He remains in custody in Denver on $50,000 bond.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Ackerman’s family with medical and funeral expenses.


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