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Santa Maria Boy Badly Injured in Crash Recovering At Los Angeles Hospital

New charge filed against John Gilbert Martinez of Guadalupet, stemming from the accident in which Elijah Olivas was hurt

Elijah Olivas, 10, of Santa Maria is making slow but steady progress in a Los Angeles hospital, recovering from severe injuries he suffered Oct. 19 in a vehicle accident near Nipomo.
Elijah Olivas, 10, of Santa Maria is making slow but steady progress in a Los Angeles hospital, recovering from severe injuries he suffered Oct. 19 in a vehicle accident near Nipomo. (Contributed photo)

More than a month after being critically injured in a vehicle accident north of Santa Maria, Elijah Olivas continues to beat the odds.

The 10-year-old Santa Maria boy was transferred more than a week ago from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as he continues to improve. 

Elijah was a passenger in a vehicle that overturned on Oct. 19 after John Gilbert Martinez, 58, of Guadalupe allegedly attacked the teen driver while they traveled on Thompson Road, north of Highway 166.

Martinez was arrested after the crash and faces multiple charges.

Ejected from the vehicle, Elijah suffered severe and numerous injuries, and was quickly airlifted to the Bay Area hospital the night of the crash as the Santa Maria Valley community rallied around the family.

Some of his injuries, such as a fractured pelvis bone, healed without surgery as the boy was confined to bed, said Elijah’s dad, Jason Olivas.

“He’s had a remarkable recovery up to this point,” Olivas said.

Still, the recovery of Elijah’s reattached hand that had been severed and the injuries to his head and face are among the worries as he continues to heal, medical staff has told Elijah’s family. 

“They don’t want to be too optimistic, too hopeful. They don’t want to get our hopes up,” he said.

Elijah reportedly has lost some eyesight and may have suffered some brain damage, but the extent of both remains uncertain. 

The family is counting on Elijah’s determined spirit, which was displayed frequently as he honed his skills while competing in wrestling in recent years.

“It got him this far, so now we’ll see what else he can give us,” Olivas said, adding Elijah does what medical staff asks of him.

Elijah is able to communicate despite having his jaw wired shut. He is on a feeding tube as doctors focus on rebuilding his stamina.

“He gets tired really easy when he’s awake,” Olivas said. “When they try to do anything with him, he gets tired fast so they’re just talking it really slow with him.”

The family had hoped Elijah, a Tunnell Elementary School student, would be home in time for the holidays, but doctors say late January is more realistic. 

Elijah keeps telling his family, “I want to go home,” his dad said.

“It’s hard because he really misses his baby sister,” Olivas added.

Due to influenza season between November and March, younger children are not allowed to go beyond the lobby into patients’ rooms, Olivas said.

Shortly after the accident, Olivas family and friends began planning fundraisers, including one held at Applebee’s.

A Go Fund Me page created for people to donate money to help the family was nearing $12,500 on Friday, with a goal of $20,000.

Before the crash, Martinez had picked up the boys for wrestling, as he had done previously, said the Olivas family's attorney, James McKiernan. 

But Martinez was acting strangely while driving them to Nipomo. After the vehicle came to a stop, the 16-year-old took over driving, intending to take Martinez, who reportedly was under the influence of pills prescribed to him, to Marian Regional Medical Center.

However, Martinez lunged toward the driver, and attempted to strangle the teen while the vehicle was in motion as the younger boys tried to contain the adult. The driver lost control and the vehicle rolled over, ejecting Elijah whose seat belt came unlatched during the fracas.

A civil lawsuit could be filed at some point in the future.

“We’re just still investigating the situation trying to determine the responsible parties,” said McKiernan, who is based in San Luis Obispo.

A national wrestling association may be one defendant in a future lawsuit since the crash occurred while Martinez was fulfilling his duties as a coach, the attorney said, adding that for now, the focus is on getting the family stabilized and Elijah out of the hospital.

He said they remain hopeful they will be able to negotiate a settlement.

Meanwhile, the criminal case continues against Martinez. On Monday, he appeared in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court for an amended arraignment after the District Attorney’s Office added a count of felony mayhem.

Earlier, he was charged with multiple counts, including assault causing great bodily injury, felony battery, willful cruelty to a child, interfering with a driver’s control of a vehicle, and being under the influence of a controlled substance.

As Elijah battles back from his injuries, Martinez, a youth wresting coach, remained in San Luis Obispo County Jail on Friday with bail set at $100,000, according to the Sheriff’s Office website.

Two weeks ago, his family solicited character-reference letters from family, friends and ex-wrestlers of Martinez, asking via social media that they be sent to his defense attorney, Angela Kowal. She did not returned a call seeking comment.

Martinez is scheduled to next appear in court Dec. 14 for a pre-preliminary hearing for the case being prosecuted by Deputy District Attorney Lindsey Bittner.

The District Attorney’s Office is asking that anyone who may have been a witness to the accident involving the dark green Toyota Avalon, or who stopped to render aid or direct traffic, contact investigator Neil Clayton at 805.781.5877.

"We just want to make sure we get everybody," Clayton said.

The crash occurred just after 5:30 p.m. Oct. 19 on Thompson Road, which runs parallel to Highway 101 in southern San Luis Obispo County.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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