For a few seconds after a car crashed into the Crystal Lake restaurant, Danae Zaitz thinks she blacked out.
Michael and Danae Zaitz, of Lake in the Hills, were walking to their table at Buffalo Wings and Rings when they heard a crash, she felt “flung forward ... and then he was gone,” Danae said.
Michael, drummer for Modern Day Romeos, had pushed her out of the way but was not able to get out of the careening car’s path. On Sunday, he remained at Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital, awaiting surgery for his injuries: a broken leg, hematoma, cut hand, and glass shards embedded in his body.
The driver of the vehicle, a Nissan Altima, was attempting to park when, “for unknown reasons” it went over the sidewalk and into the restaurant, according to Crystal Lake police.
They are still reeling from the crash, Danae said. “It is overwhelming at the moment.”
“There was noise, but in my head, it was silent” in the moments after the crash, Danae said. Then she heard Michael yelling, “Get it off me, get it off me,” Danae said.
He was trapped under the car at first, she said. But somehow, the car reversed and he was able to get out. “He told me the driver backed the car off of him,” she said.
Michael and three others were taken to area hospitals.
Michael’s complete medical picture has yet to come in. He is “able to walk – painfully – mind you,” she said. The surgery, tentatively set for April 3, will likely happen at another facility.
“We are playing it day to day,” Danae said, but the surgery won’t come until swelling goes down in his leg. Physical therapy and a long recovering is almost certain.
Danae knows personally what the next several months will be like for Michael. In October 2020, she fell as she stepped out of the family’s lake place camper and shattered her leg and ankle. “I have a 10-inch plate in my leg, a 12-inch scar and 14 screws” now, she said.
For 16 weeks that fall, she was confined to a chair in their living room. It took a full year for her to recover, Danae said.
If the car had hit her, if Michael had not pushed out out of the way, she does not know if her body could have taken the trauma again, Danae said.
If they had been seated in the booth when it hit, the results would have been even worse, she said.
“The odds of this happening have to be one in a billion,” his friend and bandmate Jim Wojdyla said following the crash.
Michael and Wojdyla are members of Modern Day Romeos, which Michael plays drums for. Wojdyla, along with the other band members, set up a GoFundMe on Friday to help cover any bills he might have to deal with for the next three months.
Being a union electrician without short-term disability pay, Zaitz likely won’t be able to work or perform in his band for the next several months, Wojdyla said.
“He seems to be in good spirits … and doing a lot better,” Wojdyla said. “But there’s no income coming in, and he’s got a family that relies on him.”
As of Sunday afternoon, the page has over 400 donations and more than $28,000 raised.
He seems to be in good spirits … and doing a lot better. ... But there’s no income coming in, and he’s got a family that relies on him.— Jim Wojdyla, friend and bandmate of Michael Zaitz
On Saturday night laying in his hospital bed, Michael cried, “because he doesn’t feel worthy” of the community’s outpouring of support, Danae said.
Danae reminded her husband “you are one of the good ones and our community is stepping up to help you and you have to let them.”
Meanwhile, Wings and Rings said in a social media post on Friday it is focused on the well-being of those involved before they start repairing the building.
“We appreciate everyone who has reached out regarding the traumatic event that our staff and guests endured [on Thursday],” the post reads. “Our hearts are with all parties involved.”
As of Thursday, the cause of the crash was under investigation. Crystal Lake police could not be reached over the weekend for an update on the crash.