Members of local rock band Tommy Alto continue to recover from a violent van crash that happened a month ago - and they promise to play music together again one day, even if it takes many months for them all to heal well enough.
The early-morning accident near Hope on Aug. 26 came at the end of a summer tour for the band, which had performed in Coleman, Alta., the evening before. Their vehicle went off the road and crashed into a boulder during their all-night drive.
Bassist Paul Engels, a recent high school grad and the band member most seriously injured in the crash, remains in hospital with head trauma and other injuries.
His progress is documented daily in a "Praying for Paul Engels" Facebook page, which is followed by close to 1,900 people.
"Paul is continuing to communicate a lot," his family posted Saturday, Sept. 28.
"He read his get-well cards. He wrote his name. We convinced him that he is in a hospital and not a prisoner on a pirate ship. Some good laughs today together!" Earlier last week, Paul's dad, John, wrote that his son was communicating with a couple of hand signals.
"He signaled for me to turn up the music tonight," John wrote last Tuesday, Sept. 24. "Yesterday, he chose his music over me playing guitar. I guess I better practice more," he wrote, adding a "smiley face" to the post.
Bandleader Tom Vander Kam said he and the others are very optimistic about Engels' recovery.
"If he's come this far in only a month, there's lots of hope," Vander Kam said. "He attempts to vocalize stuff but can't yet, but he's getting there. We know he's in there, he's just trapped in his body."
The band's drummer, Chartwell Kerr, also seriously injured in the crash, is now recovering at home in Vancouver.
"He's still in pretty rough shape," Vander Kam said. "He won't walk or drum again for maybe six to eight months, but he's definitely staying optimistic about everything, very positive."
Vander Kam is also on the mend from less serious injuries to his abdomen and hip areas, along with a deep gash to his shin. He performed live for the first time since the crash on Sept. 21 at Surrey's Youth Fest; he was slated to do so again Saturday (Sept. 28) during the Rock the Town Festival in White Rock, but heavy rain forced the cancellation of his solo set that afternoon.
"I'm slowly easing back into playing live again, and (Youth Fest) was something to let everyone know that we're not dead," he said. "We're still here and will continue to make music.... Right now, all I can do are acoustic gigs where I don't move around too much (on stage), because of the pain."
As for the future of Tommy Alto, Vander Kam said he and the other band members have plans to release an EP of new music next spring and then tour again.
"We want to do an all-ages reunion show next May or June, just to celebrate our good health and also make it a tour kickoff," Vander Kam said.
"We're not going to let this (accident) stop us. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger at this point."
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