Wearing a helmet and gear while riding his motorcycle is non-negotiable for Brad Coblentz. But one wrong turn from an uninsured driver left him with 30 staples in his neck, nine broken ribs, a broken wrist — and no way to pay for it.
Without relatives in town, the 42-year-old waiter’s coworkers and employers decided they would step in, showing how the Crafty Bastards Restaurant & Pub staff is more than just a work crew – it’s a family.
“He’s like a son to us,” said Betty Brunson, owner of Crafty Bastards.
Coblentz started working for Brunson and her husband when the restaurant first opened eight years ago. Since then, he has been an unwavering asset to their team and one of the best employees they could have, Brunson said.
She wasted no time setting up a GoFundMe page to ease the burden of the medical expenses Coblentz is facing.
The page went live Jan. 7, a day after the accident, and within the first few days, they raised almost $4,000.
“I’m very blessed that everyone has been doing everything for me,” Coblentz said. “The GoFundMe and the thoughts and prayers and all the support is really nice.”
Though he was lucky his injuries weren’t more severe, Coblentz said, he feels unlucky to have been hit by an uninsured driver.
Across the country, 12.6% of drivers were uninsured in 2019, according to a 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council. In Florida alone, 20.4% of drivers were uninsured, giving the state the nation’s sixth highest uninsurance rate.
His girlfriend, Amber Naber, was only minutes behind him on the road the day of the accident. Naber, 35, was on the phone with her father when traffic began to slow. She ended the call with him to let Coblentz know she would most likely be late because of what appeared to be an accident.
After multiple attempts to reach him with no response, her mind went to the worst.
“By like the ninth or tenth time I just kept hitting redial, and then I just knew,” Naber said. “I swear, my vision went blurry, and I just started panicking.”
When she arrived at the intersection of Northwest 31st Terrace and Northwest 39th Street in Gainesville, she pulled over as paramedics were putting Coblentz on a stretcher. She said it was the worst feeling she had ever felt.
Before first responders arrived, two drivers behind Coblentz stopped to help pull him out from under the Ford F-150.
“I basically saw it happen before it happened,” Sean Lett said.
The 25-year-old, who works at a local auto body shop, said he could tell the truck was not going to stop.
Knowing the accident was going to be bad, he immediately pulled over and jumped out to help however he could.
Gasoline, coolant and other fluids spewed everywhere. Lett feared they would start a fire, making the situation increasingly dangerous as they worked to free Coblentz.
Lett and another man were slipping and hardly able to stand in the mess, he said, as they tried to remove backpack straps that were tangled around Coblentz’s neck.
After losing a close friend to a motorcycle accident almost two years ago, Lett immediately decided to pulled over.
“There was no way I could just drive by that,” he said.
Coblentz spent a week in the hospital with a steady flow of visits from friends and even regular customers from the restaurant, he said.
His mother drove down from Indiana to be with him, but considering the usual lack of immediate family in town, the community outreach has been essential, Coblentz said. His mother was very happy to see the love and support from everyone, he said.
Nurses at the hospital even commented how amazing and unusual it was to see how many people were coming in to visit, Brunson said.
Now that he is home, Coblentz will be out of work for a while as he recovers. The total amount Coblentz will need to get back on his feet is not clear, which is why the fundraiser’s goal is set at $50,000, Brunson said, to account for the loss of income as well as cover the medical bills, she said.
This is not the first fundraiser Brunson has organized on the behalf of one of her employees. Last year, John Santos, another server at Crafty Bastards and a close friend of Coblentz, was terminally ill and Brunson started a GoFundMe page to pay for his life-saving surgery.
Santos, 46, said the couple took care of him and his dog while he was in the hospital getting a liver transplant, making them a crucial part to his recovery as well.
“The owners — just great people — are always looking out for us,” Santos said. “We just love the Brunsons.”
While Santos was sick, Coblentz was the one who came and visited him the most, he said.
“He was constantly at the hospital, so it was kind of eerie being on the other end and seeing him in the hospital,” he said.
Santos said he was in shock when Jason Plimmer, a Crafty Bastards cook and another close friend, told him the news.
“He just does not have a mean bone in his body,” Santos said.
Plimmer said he broke down and cried when Naber called to tell him about the accident. Not knowing if he was dead or paralyzed was the worst part.
Coblentz, Santos and Plimmer have been friends for over 13 years. The trio previously worked at The Red Onion Neighborhood Grill together before working at Crafty Bastards, Plimmer said.
Outside of work, they see each other regularly, even going on trips and attending music festivals together, he said. The familiar faces of Crafty Bastards are a testament to the tight-knit bonds that form not only here, but at a lot of places in the restaurant industry, he said.
Work is unexciting without Coblentz by his side, Plimmer said. Everyone wants him back as soon as possible.
But until that day comes, the cook and the two servers have their weekly Sunday football watch parties to bring them together, cheering on their respective teams — Coblentz for the Indiana Colts, Santos for the Miami Dolphins and Plimmer for the Chicago Bears — as they wait for him to get back on his feet.