While riding his bike home from a game, just after 9:30 p.m., the 24-year-old Woodstock resident was a hit by a truck on East Cherokee Drive near the Ranchwood Trail intersection, said Tracey Watson, Georgia State Patrol spokeswoman.
“The driver of the Chevrolet stated that he thought an eastbound vehicle was coming over into his lane, so he swerved to the right and ran off the road, striking the cyclist with the side mirror as he passed,” Watson said. “He failed to stop and left the scene of the crash.”
Hodgson was taken by ambulance to WellStar Kennestone Hospital and is now at home recovering with a broken leg and many bruises, his mom said.
Randall Reece Porter, 44, of Woodstock, was driving the 1999 Chevrolet Silverado that allegedly hit Hodgson.
The driver called 911 about an hour and a half after the crash and said he thought he’d hit a mailbox, Watson said, and was charged with failure to maintain lane and hit-and-run/leaving scene of an accident.
For Hodgson, being sidelined is going to be tough.
For nearly a decade, Hodgson, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has been riding his bike to sports games across the county and beyond, sometimes riding for hours to attend sporting events, his mom, Susanne Hodgson, said Tuesday.
“He rides as far as Hiram. He’s ridden his bicycle to Milton. He goes to Creekview, River Ridge — wherever there is a game, Zack goes,” his mom explained. “He is all muscle.”
Hodgson is known countywide for his personality and entrepreneurial spirit.
“Most people that meet him just fall in love with him. He has such a good heart and he’s just so sweet and caring,” she said. “The community, all of Cherokee County, says it’s just incredible how much charisma this guy has.”
When word of the accident got out, many community members voiced their concern and support of the man known as the county’s No. 1 sports fan.
People from across the county are coming together to buy Hodgson a new bicycle and assist with medical costs.
Cherokee Schools Deputy Superintendent Brian Hightower knows Zack, and said he has been one of Woodstock High School’s “most devoted fans” for years.
“He is a truly remarkable, talented person,” Hightower said.
Hodgson is not only known for supporting school sports — JUMP Kitchen & Sports Saloon Co-Owner Matt McGehee said Zack is a regular at the restaurant.
“He comes up anytime that we have live music. He dances and sometimes sings, and just walks around talking to different guests that he has met along the way,” McGehee said. “We appreciate how energetic Zack is and how much he enjoys the bands. He has gotten to know many of them and many of our guests as well. We want to help him and the family as much as we can.”
McGehee said a fundraiser is scheduled to take place at Woodstock’s JUMP Kitchen & Sports Saloon on April 12 to help purchase a new bicycle for Zack and help his family with medical expenses.
JUMP Kitchen will give 10 percent of the money from the night’s sales to help the family, and Jasper musicians, The Jacob Bryant Band, pledged to give 100 percent of their proceeds to the family.
“The goal in all of this is to get Zack a new bike and help in any way the family wishes us to help,” McGehee said. “We know that is his primary mode of transportation, so me and my girlfriend said ‘We should just pitch in and buy him another bike.’ I spoke to my business partner about it the next day at work, and some of the staff, and we raised about $150 that day. We have raised about $300 in two days and I’m sure we will raise more.”
JUMP Kitchen is located at 1085 Buckhead Crossing, in Woodstock, and McGehee said any donations for the family are welcome.
Hodgson graduated with honors from Woodstock High School in 2008 and attends school sporting events near and far to bring sports fans their concession foods and collect “trash for tips.”
“He was voted the most spirited boy of his senior class, and he was also voted the biggest fan of basically all the teams and was given a special ceremony,” his mom said. “They just love him, he’s very charismatic, very outgoing.”
The 24-year-old’s mom said her son’s business took off eight or nine years ago, and he’s been doing it ever since.
“It’s turned into this incredible business for him,” she said. “He gets people’s food from the concession stand, he brings them their food and their change, and they tip him. He helps clean up all the trash afterward, so he gets tipped then, and that’s how he makes his money.”
Despite wearing reflective materials on his helmet and on the bicycle, and doing his best to plan bicycle routes on roads with sidewalks or shoulders, his mom said it’s still dangerous to ride on many roads in Cherokee, especially at night.
“Zack would always try to use Google Earth to plan his route so that he could get as much sidewalk in, but then there are places, of course, where there’s no sidewalk, and that’s why he was on the shoulder,” she said. “He wears a motorcycle helmet, he has lights and reflectors all over his bike, and he knows to ride as close to the edge as he can.”
Saturday’s incident, however, was out of his control. Hodgson said the police who responded to the accident told Zack he did nothing wrong and was properly “prepared for evening riding.”
“This guy just wasn’t paying attention, and he went off the road and hit him,” she said. “He thought he hit a mailbox and left. (Zack) is very lucky, it could’ve been a lot worse.”
Hodgson said she does worry about her son, but said he’s very independent and intelligent, and knows he can call for a ride home if he needs one.
“It’s just a bike; it can be replaced,” she said, “and he will heal, and that’s all I care about.”
This is the second time he’s been in a wreck, the first time was in the daytime and was much worse, his mom said.
Hodgson’s son was left with broken bones and some lost teeth from the first accident, and “his bike was destroyed two weeks before he graduated high school,” she said.
Hodgson said her son is a bit nervous about riding again after Saturday’s incident, but is ready to get out of the house after two days of being cooped-up.
Hodgson said she is overwhelmed with the support being shown in the community and said she really appreciates the help — and said Zack thinks it’s great too.
Her husband, Zack’s dad, died in 2011 from a rare and aggressive form of cancer, she said, and the community’s support means so much to the family.