Cal Poly holds Celebration of Life for Jordan Grant
Sitting some 1,500 miles from home, under the cover of a divine Central Coast sunset, James and Becky Grant absorbed what happened during the final moments of their son’s life.
The unimaginable emotions of parents grieving the loss of their first-born child poured out as James and Becky listened intently to the two good Samaritans who arrived on the scene that fateful day.
They wanted to know every detail about the motorcycle crash that killed their 18-year-old son five days earlier.
That desire led a group of previously complete strangers to become forever intertwined in what can best be described as an intensely powerful human interaction.
Jordan Grant, a freshman at Cal Poly, was driving his motorcycle southbound on Highway 101 on Sunday afternoon, excited to watch the SpaceX rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
As Grant approached the El Campo Road intersection south of Arroyo Grande, a 42-year-old man in a 2018 BMW made what police said was an unsafe left turn directly in front of his motorcycle, causing a fatal collision. Grant was pronounced dead at the scene when emergency personnel arrived several minutes later.
Friday evening, just miles from the crash site, James Grant was still coping with feelings of guilt, having expressed trepidation to Jordan about taking his motorcycle on the freeway.
“We were trying to let him make his decisions,” James Grant said. “We didn’t think the danger was really as much in the day time. We were worried about the night.”
Though Jordan Grant succumbed to his injuries, he wasn’t alone in his final minutes of life.
Far from it.
‘You want to help someone’
Ashley Delavega, a 34-year-old mother of four, was returning from a birthday party in Nipomo with her two youngest children when she approached the scene of the crash.
Delavega said she saw a motorcycle in the roadway and a man laying in the middle of Highway 101. She called 911 at 4:49 p.m. The dispatcher asked if she could assess Jordan’s injuries.
Delavega, who is studying to become a nurse, noticed Jordan’s stomach was swollen, indicating excessive bleeding to the abdomen. She said his right hip was dislocated and his femur was shattered.
“I ran up to Jordan and I told him, ‘My name’s Ashley, I’m going to be here with you,’” Delavega recalled. “‘Can you tell me your name? Can you tell me your name?’”
Jordan was taking shallow breaths and unresponsive.
About 5 minutes after she arrived, Michael Freund, who lives in a gated community near the El Campo Road intersection, came to Jordan’s side.
Freund, who works as an operating room nurse at Coastal Surgical Institute in Pismo Beach, jumped into action.
He and Delavega began performing CPR, starting with chest compressions. When they noticed the shallow breathing stopped, they gently removed Jordan’s helmet, and Delavega began giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Emergency personnel were on scene minutes later and took over life-saving measures. Paramedics placed EKG pads on Jordan’s chest, but were unable to find his heart rhythm. Jordan had taken his final breath.
“You play those situations in your head and think, ‘Could I have done anything different? Did we make all the right decisions?’” Freund said. “You lay in bed at night and you go through those scenarios because you want to help someone.”
‘I’m so glad it was you’
Shaken by their experiences, Freund and Delavega made a point to track down Jordan’s family. They wanted them to know people at the scene cared deeply, and Jordan wasn’t alone in the final moments of his life.
Delavega met with the family for two hours Wednesday, relaying all the information she could. She attended Jordan’s celebration of life memorial service at Cal Poly that night, where friends, family and faculty shared stories of the exuberant teenager.
“The only thing that was ever going to sit with me with this whole experience was telling (Becky) that he was not alone and he wasn’t in pain,” Delavega said.
Freund, father to a 4-month-old boy, read about the memorial service online and was compelled to reach out to James and Becky.
He wasn’t sure what he would say.
“I didn’t and I don’t want it to be about me. It’s not about me,” Freund said. “Just seeing his face at the time, it’s something I’ll never forget. ... When I first got back to my wife and I saw my son, I just lost it. That was someone else’s son, you know? That’s been the hardest thing for me, just thinking how that affects everybody.”
Freund, Delavega, James and Becky agreed to meet for the first time at Freund’s home Friday in Arroyo Grande, along with three of Jordan’s aunts and his uncle.
Freund detailed his experience, grasping hands with Becky and pushing through grief.
“I’m just glad you were there,” Becky said through tears. “I’m so glad it was you.”
‘We are amazed and thankful’
By sharing their pieces of a larger story that bound these strangers together forever, Freund and Delavega said they hope more people will be willing to take action in an emergency situation.
“People are afraid to do anything because they think they’re going to hurt someone,” Freund said, “but anyone can do chest compressions — and they can save people.”
James and Becky Grant flew home to Texas with Jordan’s body Saturday morning.
They plan to return to San Luis Obispo in the future, and work with local officials on restructuring the deadly El Campo Road intersection.
The Grant family also has started a petition on Change.org called, “In Memory of Jordan Grant: Eliminate Death Trap at Hwy 101 and El Campo Road.” They hope to gain 1,000 signatures, and those interested can make a financial contribution on the website.
The Grants have also created a GoFundMe campaign to help cover engineering and legal expenses required to address the intersection.
“We so much want to share how wonderful these two are in stopping to help Jordan,” James Grant said in an email. “And in so doing became bound to him and so hurt by his death. And then to be so open and kind to grieve with us and help us through this. We are amazed and thankful.”