As of Tempo’s press time Monday (Oct. 16), his 27th birthday, Cody Woolard remains in the neuroscience intensive care unit at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. He has suffered a traumatic brain injury, has had a stroke and is still unconscious – all as the result of a head-on collision with an alleged drunk driver on Sept. 30.
Tempo spoke with his mother, Sherri Woolard, by phone. She said, “We’re here in Albuquerque at the hospital with Cody – me and his father, Dale Woolard. We are from Illinois near St. Louis.”
Sherri Woolard said her son worked for New Mexico River Adventures in Embudo, 27 miles south of Taos. “The river guides have been here at the hospital holding vigils. They’ve been coming and staying.”
Jake Walker, manager at New Mexico River Adventures, confirmed that. “We’ve been going down every day.” (Although those visits have now stopped because of doctor’s orders resulting from a change in Cody Woolard’s condition.)
Walker is the one who trained Woolard and worked with him. “This is such a travesty; we just want to get the word out about this concert benefit. He was a guide and very well-rounded. He was starting to take on a lot of responsibility as being the head boatman on trips and stepping into a managerial role.”
Walker also knew Woolard’s friends, Hannah Metzger, 25, and Cedrick Kober, 33, who were killed in the Sept. 30 head-on collision with an allegedly stolen Chevrolet Tahoe driven by a man identified by Taos County Sheriff’s Office as Juan Espinoza, 21. Woolard was critically injured. The sheriff’s office has stated that Espinoza is alleged to have had alcohol in his blood at the time of the crash. Espinoza, of Bakersfield, California, survived the crash and has been charged with multiple counts of homicide by vehicle.
“During an Oct. 5 hearing in Taos Magistrate Court,” an Oct. 12 story by John Miller in The Taos News stated, “Espinoza’s original $200,000 cash-only bond was reduced to a $20,000 cash surety bond, requiring that the defendant post only 10 percent of the bond’s full amount in order to be released – or just $2,000.” Soon after, he was released on bond.
“I teach the guide schools,” Walker said. “They were the sweetest kids. Out of the 50 employees, they were three of the sweetest kids.”
When asked what he would like to say to the Taos community directly, Walker said, “Even though Cody wasn’t from here, he was an important part of our community. And stuff like this happens way too often that we don’t have any control over, and people come together in Taos for fire, accidents and illness. We appreciate the support.”
Walker also said: “I have lost people before. But this is terribly heartbreaking and has spiraled into one bad thing.”
Eric Jay, a local musician, is using his event management/planning talents and concert booking skills to help his friend, Cody Woolard, in his most dire time of need. He has organized a music and art benefit with all proceeds going directly to Cody Woolard’s family to cover medical costs.
On Saturday (Oct. 21), the “For Cody!” music and art benefit will take place at Taos Mesa Brewing, 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west. Doors open at 7 p.m. and $5 to $10 donations are being asked for at the door.
In a statement, Jay writes: “As anyone knows, even going to the hospital for a sprained ankle will cost you the very leg that you injured. So in response to outrageous [health care] costs and hardships endured through misfortunes such as this, we are organizing this benefit to help support the victims, Cody, and his family through this struggle.”
Local bluegrass band The Noseeums and local country-punk band Two-Ton Strap are headlining the bill as of press time – though Jay stresses that more musicians are likely to be added in the days leading up to the event.
One of Cody Woolard’s friends, Heather Enders Anderson, is organizing the art benefit by collecting donations from artists, rafting companies, lessons from musicians, gift providers and simply any individual who has anything to donate to the cause.
A GoFundMe site has also been established at gofundme.com/medical-fund-for-cody-woolard.
Dan Irion, Taos Mesa Brewing partner and booking manager, explains that when he and his partners first put the brewery together years ago, they envisioned it as being a space for community events.
He points out that Taos is a challenging place for a lot of people in a lot of different ways and when there are tragedies, people come out and support – and that’s where Taos’ strength lies.
It is noteworthy that nabbing a Saturday night spot on short notice at Taos Mesa Brewing is practically unheard of – as the venue books its acts months and months in advance.
“The people who had the date were incredibly gracious about it. It was local band Two-Ton Strap, who are now on the benefit bill and are playing for free. Those guys deserve a big credit,” Irion said.
Max Moulton, drummer for Two-Ton Strap, dismissed any credit. “It’s not nearly that glorious. My little brother was a rafter this summer. It was his first year; he was buddies with all three of those guys. It was a total shock. I had only met Cody once. I’m honored to help him in any way I can.”
In talking about their friendship, Jay said that when they played Dungeons & Dragons, Cody Woolard would volunteer to take on the more burdensome role of dungeon master. “They create the world for the characters and the storylines and the monsters they encounter. They do all the math involved. He always took that role, being the person he is.”
Sherri Woolard, who preferred not to speak long on the phone, said: “We continue to be amazed at the love and support that comes from the New Mexico community.”
The Taos News also reported Oct. 12 that following his release, “Espinoza is expected to return to California, where he would be required to maintain contact with his attorney and appear for court dates in his case. If the defendant were to violate any of his conditions of release, a warrant would be issued for his arrest. A preliminary examination is scheduled for Oct. 26, a Thursday, at 1:30 p.m. in Taos Magistrate Court.”
For more information on the Cody Woolard benefit, call the venue at (575) 758-1900.