MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — An Albertville teenager is still in the hospital and improving after being hit by a car Friday.
Daniel Leija, 17, an Albertville high school student and cross-country champion, was seriously injured Friday evening while running on a hiking trail. Authorities say he was hit by a car on Highway 69 at Sunset Drive in Guntersville.
Officials with the Albertville city school system say Leija has undergone three surgeries.
“We manage the rest of the season for Daniel. We will finish the season strong. We have a lot of catching up to do, but I know they can do it. They are great kids and they are willing to work hard,” said Albertville High School cross country head coach Samantha Searels.
The coach tells News 19 she rushed to the hospital Friday night when she heard the news about Leija. She says Leija is still in the hospital, but is in good spirits and recovering.
Searels says he has a long road to recovery, but she hopes Leija will be back in an Albertville jersey by the middle of the track season.
“Daniel is great. He’s a real workhorse. He’s everyone’s cheerleader – I think he knows everyone’s stats on anything, whether it’s running, jumping or throwing. He’s the best runner in this school,” Searels added.
Guntersville city leaders say the area where Leija was hit has long been considered a problem. The city plans to use state grants for improvements.
“We recently received an ATRIP grant from the state to replace the sign poles and everything else there. One of the stipulations is we’re going to improve pedestrian enforcement there, because it’s absolutely necessary,” Guntersville Mayor Leigh Dollar said.
Mayor Dollar, who tells News 19 she is an avid runner herself and has seen first-hand the dangers of this area, hopes these improvements will be completed within a year.
“It’s a very busy intersection with the boat ramp, parks and just state highways. We never want anyone to get hurt. My thoughts and prayers go out to this young man and his family because this is just horrible,” Dollar said.
The Albertville Student Government Association is hosting a “Flagpole Prayer” for Leija on Tuesday, September 26 at 7:15 a.m.