Robert Quast digs his new set of wheels.
It has sleek blue paint, a plush interior and a smooth-purring motor.
The key to Quast’s freedom doesn’t start a sports car, but rather, a brand spankin’ new wheelchair. It was donated to him Thursday after his had been destroyed last month by a hit-and-run driver.
Quast, 43, suffers from cerebral palsy and depends on an electric scooter-type wheelchair to get around.
“Ooooh, wow, this is something else,” the Coeur d’Alene man said, taking the scooter for a spin.
On March 14, he was rolling down Sherman Avenue late at night when a red Bronco or Blazer smashed into him.
He was thrown to the ground. The driver didn’t stop, and the vehicle dragged his wheelchair 200 yards, leaving pieces scattered along the road.
After hearing about the accident, radio disc jockeys Jeff Connor and Darren Johnson of Spokane’s KEZE Rock 106 kicked off a campaign to buy Quast a wheelchair.
The duo raised more than $4,000.
On Thursday, they broadcast their morning show from the Iron Horse Restaurant in Coeur d’Alene, where Quast works. They presented him with the scooter and a check for $1,440.
The DJs arranged for Quast to arrive in a white limousine and be greeted by Coeur d’Alene Mayor Al Hassell. Quast also thanked supporters over the air for their support.
His eyes popped wide when the scooter was wheeled out.
“Oh, it’s neat,” he said, a grin splitting his face. “Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I will never forget it.”
The scooter sports a plush blue seat, flashing lights on the front and back and a strobe light on a post above the driver’s head. It cruises at up to 8 miles per hour.
Tom Robb, owner of the Iron Horse, was swamped by offers from people wanting to give Quast used wheelchairs.
Robb instead chose to buy a new scooter from the Back ‘N Action medical supply in Hayden Lake. The business sold it at a discount price of about $2,600.
Quast, a dishwasher, often uses his scooter to get to work at night. Robb hopes the new one’s flashing lights will prevent another accident.
Charges have not been filed against anyone in the case. Coeur d’Alene Police Capt. Carl Bergh said he does have a “person of interest” who is cooperating, but claims not to be the hit-and-run driver.
The person is scheduled to take a polygraph test in May.
Quast, who’s been recovering from a fractured ankle since the crash, will return to work today.
As he took a test drive Thursday morning, Connor offered some encouragement.
“You’ve got to do some wheelies,” the DJ said. “Just don’t hit the mayor.”
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