Thursday, September 22, 2016
By James Lomuscio
Westporter Mike Krysiuk could be describing an event in real time when he recounts being in a sportscar doing 100 mph and driven by his friend drunk at the wheel.
“My friend and I were coming out from New York, coming down Route 123 in New Canaan,” he recalled about the incident 42 years ago. “We went across the line to buy some beer in Vista, N.Y.”
It was Sunday, Jan. 31, 1974, a time when Connecticut Blue Laws prohibited alcohol sales on Sunday. Kyrsiuk says both he and his friend Ted Reynolds were drunk.
“It was a two-seater Triumph GT6,” Krysiuk said. “He tried to downshift. The gears locked, the brakes locked, and we went skidding and heading head for a pile of dirt and a big black shadow next to the pile of dirt.
“I balled myself up, put my feet on the dashboard to brace myself, and we hit the pile of dirt and then went into the black shadow, and the black shadow was a backhoe,” he added. “We hit the bulldozer part, and they don’t move.”
Krysiuk, then 18 and supposed to graduate from Staples High School that June, lay in a coma for seven weeks.
Reynolds, who was a year behind Krysiuk at Staples, walked away with only scratches. Months later he would die in a Westport house fire caused by an oven grease fire after he put a steak in the oven, forgot about it and went to sleep, Kyrsiuk said.
“I could hear my family talking to me, and I could feel my mother’s and sister’s tears falling on me,” he said about being in the coma. “I could hear them and feel them, but I could not communicate with them.”
When he came to, all he could move were his eyes.
“When I came out of the coma, the doctor told me had I not put my feet on the dashboard, I would have lost both legs at the socket because the engine would have come though and landed at my feet,” he said.
Kyrsiuk had been on his back so long, he gained 2 inches in height, stretching to 6-foot-4; however, he had slimmed to only 66 pounds, he said.
Slowly and painstakingly, Krysiuk made his way back. He even walked with the Staples Class of 1975 the following June. Today, he works as an accounting assistant in the Westport Tax Collector’s office. And he writes.
Ten years ago he authored the self-published book “Why Me, Why Now” about the crash.
More recently he co-authored the play “I Don’t See My Shadow” with playwright Frank S. Petrilli. It will be performed with Krusiuk as one of the one-act play’s three characters at the Westport Historical Society on Friday, Oct. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m., including discussions.
The play is being directed by Jason Howard, and its producers are Rozanne Gates and Suzanne Sheridan.
Gates says she was fortunate to find a sponsor with Rob Vaccaro of Liberty Mutual Insurance. The company Liberty Mutual has a teen driving contract, “and Vaccaro felt that his company’s commitment to keeping families safe was in alignment with Krysiuk’s play,” Gates said.
Krysiuk said he chose a different title for the play based on an experience he had while in the coma.
“When I was in the coma, it was brightly lit behind me, and there should have been a shadow in front of me, but I didn’t see one,” he said. “I was in a green field, and I was running. It wasn’t like a dream. It felt like I was there.”
To this day, Krysiuk walks with a slight limp, and his activities have been curtailed. He golfs from time to time, but says he can never take part in a baseball game, even though his skill at the game placed him on Staples’ varsity team when he was a junior.
“I had to get it out,” he says about his need to write. “For 98 percent of the people who have what I had, the next step is the graveyard.”
Gates says donations at the door are accepted, and reservations can be made by calling (203) 222-1424.
Posted 09/22/16 at 07:45 PM Permalink
MIKES STORY brings back memories from 1953. Richard Randholm and Buddy Committ were driving on Rte 123, coming back from a night of drinking beer at the Log Cabin in Vista NY. Rit and I were good friends and Seniors at Staples. Richard was killed in the accident.