Community helps local grocery worker after motorcycle crash

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LOS LUNAS, N.M. – A motorcycle crash is forcing one worker, who takes on the roles of an elf and Santa Claus during the holidays, to skip this Christmas.

Now, the community is paying back years of laughs and smiles, when this worker needs it most. 

It was a regular Wednesday for Phillip Crouch when he was heading to work on Main Street in Los Lunas.

“I was just waiting patiently when the traffic light was gonna turn green,” said Phillip Crouch, Los Lunas Albertson’s worker. 

And just when it did.

“Some guy cut right in front of me and I slammed on the both handles of the brakes, and I started skidding, and I fell on the left and fell down,” said Crouch. 

After an apology from the driver, and a quick check of the scratches on his bike, he made it the couple more miles to work at Albertson’s.

“When he got there he was telling me he was having chest pain and was having a hard time breathing. I was like ‘oh my gosh’ you know,” said Laurie Nelson, Phillip Crouch’s mom. 

Laurie was the first to realize something wasn’t right. It took the afternoon at two urgent cares and an Albuquerque hospital to find out Crouch had a collapsed lung.

Laurie says doctors told her he also likely has at least one fractured rib.

“I try to be calm about those kinds of things so, but yeah it was very concerning,” said Nelson. 

Crouch’s stepdad started a GoFundMe page to help set him up for safer rides in the future. He set a $2,000 goal for an inflatable vest, that acts like an airbag during a crash, and a new helmet. 

“Los Lunas kind of rocks, you know the people really showed a lot of support for him,” Nelson said. 

Because $2,000 quickly turned to $12,000. The family got 360 donations in three days. Some said he has a heart of gold, others called Crouch a ray of sunshine and that buying groceries just won’t be the same without him.

“I feel very thankful, yeah and very blessed. And I appreciate it very much,” said Crouch. 

He says his holiday season won’t be the same without his customers.

“Explaining what new movies are gonna be coming next, and telling funny jokes, and doing impressions,” Crouch said. 

Not to mention his elf costume.

“They go like ‘Phillip that costume is interesting,’ yeah I bring a lot of good spirits and I make everybody happy,” said Crouch. 

And soda throne for days where he shows up as Santa. 

“They use those 12 packs of Coca-Cola cans to make it into Santa’s throne,” said Crouch. 

Come 2023, Crouch says his customers can count on his return to his favorite job of 15 years.

“I’m feeling good,” Crouch said. 

Crouch’s parents say the responding officer to the accident didn’t take a report because the vehicles didn’t crash.

If they can’t get a report now, the financial burden of uncovered hospital bills and damage to the bike could be thousands more than expected.