UAH Cross Country team visit Albertville teen who was hit by a car in Guntersville

WAFF 48's Savannah Sapp reporting
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 6:18 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2023 at 9:40 PM CDT

ALBERTVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - After three surgeries due to one near-death experience, an Albertville athlete is on the way to recovery after a run-in with a vehicle in Guntersville.

Cross Country champion Daniel Leija, 17 was hit by a car while running on Sunset Drive in Guntersville on Friday night.

“I was in shock, I was in disbelief. It was really upsetting to hear that about a kid, especially a great kid like Daniel is,” Leija’s Cross Country Head Coach Samantha Searels said.

Searels says she rushed to the emergency room when she heard of the accident. She says when she arrived, she found Leija had suffered lacerations to his legs and a fracture to his spine. Despite the frightening event, Searels says Leija is in good spirits while recovering.

“He’s doing good. He’s talking, he’s joking. If anybody knows him, he’s quite the prankster and jokester. He was joking Friday night when I saw him, so he’s in really good spirits. He just has a long road to recovery,” Searels said.

Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar, an avid runner herself, says the intersection of Sunset Drive and Hwy. 69 have been a problem due to it’s congestion. She says the city will grant funds to make the area safe for pedestrians.

“It’s just very busy so we got an ATRIP grant for safety improvements for that whole intersection. I would expect, within a year, you should see some activity on that. It’s all new signal poles, new pedestrian crossings, a right in, right out at the boat ramp down off of 69,” Dollar said.

Searles says though Leija will have a long road of recovery he will likely be running again soon.

“He’s super tough and also really stubborn. He will push himself really hard in recovery. If everything goes well, hopefully he can run in an Albertville jersey in the middle of track season,” Searels said.

As Leija is in his recovery stage and heading to begin rehab, the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s men’s Cross Country team paid him a visit on Wednesday night.

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