OSU Homecoming Crash Survivor Works To Get 'Old Life Back'

Thursday, August 11th 2016, 7:57 pm
By: Tess Maune

Monday, students return to campus for a brand new year at Oklahoma State University.

But, the fresh start can't erase the memories of the tragedy that struck at the heart of one of the university's most treasured traditions, its homecoming celebration.

Four people died and almost 50 were injured when a car plowed into the homecoming parade last October. But time is slowly healing some of the wounds for a Skiatook survivor.

Special Coverage: OSU Homecoming Tragedy

There are a lot of things you notice when meeting Leo Schmitz, like the computerized prosthetic on his left leg, but what's most likely to stand out is his smile.

10/27/2015 Related Story: Family: American Airlines Mechanic Saved Little Girl In OSU Tragedy

“I'm happy because, yes, I am alive. I made through and I have the Lord on my side,” he said.

Leo and his wife Sharon live on a small farm near Skiatook with their six miniature horses.

“They are very calming for me,” Leo said.

The horses are a lot of work, but they're just the therapy he needs in his recovery from the homecoming parade crash that nearly took his life.

He said, “The only thing I remember from that day...I'm standing here watching the parade and later on I woke up in a hospital.”

When Leo woke up, more than two months had passed. It was almost January. He had a brain injury, his right leg was snapped in half and his left leg had been amputated. But he was alive, so the rest didn't matter, and he's fought every day since to get his old life back.

"It's The Lord giving me the strength and believing in The Lord and believing in the prayers," Leo said.

Leo's faith was never tested, which is why he says it was so easy for he and Sharon to forgive Adacia Chambers, the woman accused of causing the crash and changing hundreds of lives.

"I'm not mad. I've forgiven her because my wife and I, we want to move on," Leo said. "I forgave her the day of the crash," his wife added. 

He's been back to work at American Airlines for eight weeks now. He taught himself how to navigate the stairs with his new leg by watching videos online while his ability to do his job as an Avionics Technician came back to him naturally.

"It's amazing for all he's been through how mentally sharp he is," friend and co-worker Jason Yoder said. 

But of course, there are still many challenges and Leo gets around a little more slowly than before, but he and his wife are just grateful he’s getting around at all.

“If we have a bad day, I think of the people that died. So we aren't having any bad days,” his wife said while wiping tears from her eyes.

Even with insurance, Leo's medical bills are well over a million dollars.

He has attorneys working to lower the cost, but said he went back to work quickly to help pay the bills.

"We could end up losing our house, our land and everything I've worked for because we have to pay the hospitals and we don't know what the final bill will be," Leo said. 

You can help Leo here.

And while it's be a year of changes and hurdles, there's one thing that hasn't changed for Leo.

"I'm still 100-percent an OSU fan," he said. "I'll be proud to be back [at homecoming].