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Carlsbad teen nearly killed in crash adjusting to new life

Carlsbad teen nearly killed in crash adjusting to new life
Posted at 5:04 PM, Jul 09, 2024

CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) — A Carlsbad teenager nearly killed in a car crash in Arizona in April is back home and adjusting to her new life.

Zalia Oliva, 18, spent nearly three months in Arizona hospitals after the car she was riding in slammed into a house. Her boyfriend, Shane Johnson, 20, and a friend, Aiden Ellis, 19, died in the crash.

Zalia suffered catastrophic injuries, including devastating spinal cord fractures.

"I broke the left side of my face, cracked my skull, broke my wrist, and then my pelvis and ribs," said Zalia.

Her degree of paralysis is still unknown.

"Supposed to be from neck down, then it went to nipples down, and then now it's waist down," said Zalia.

The teen graduated from La Costa Canyon High School in 2023. She was finishing her first year at Grand Canyon University when the accident happened last April.

"I was studying criminal justice to become a police officer to then become LAPD SWAT," said Zalia.

She was also passionate about fitness.

"The thing I enjoyed most was watching my progress grow from being super tiny then gaining weight and watching my muscles form," said Zalia.

Now, progress looks very different. She returned home to Carlsbad last week with her mom and sister. Rozlyn Sturtevant, a self-employed business owner and single mom, is now her 24/7 caregiver.

"I'm a mom. I'm a fixer. I fix things. I fix her cut. I fix her, help with her homework. I fix any little heartbreak. I fix things. I couldn't fix this," said Sturtevant.

Sturtevant said the outpouring of help from family, friends, even strangers has sustained her.

"As a single mother, I always felt really isolated. It's me against the rest of the world," but Sturtevant said this crisis taught her a valuable lesson.

"I'm the sole provider of all things. That was sort of the story I told myself for years. And in this circumstance where I cannot even physically stand, I can't even think straight, I can't form sentences, the outpouring of support that this has shown me is so far from the truth," said Sturtevant.

Her daughter's ultimate prognosis is unknown, but the next two years will consist of full-time therapy.

The teen is committed to working hard.

"I'm fine walking, not walking just as long as I can gain as much mobility," said Zalia.

"I don't know, but even if you don't ever walk again, you are going to have an extremely full life," said Sturtevant.

The family says the outpouring of support from family, friends, and strangers has been tremendous. Local companies have installed wheelchair ramps, and an outdoor shower is being built.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help with medical bills.