Peter Lutz was hesitant about riding his son’s motorcycle.
Not even a week had passed since 24-year-old Pearce Lutz passed away in a Seattle hospital June 16 from injuries received in a racing crash.
After the crash, his friends added neon green fairings bearing No. 105 from the newer bike Pearce was riding when he crashed. That same motorcycle was the one Pearce rode when he achieved a much sought-after championship in 2018. His friends desired it to be a memorial to the paramedic from Keizer who devoted his life to serving others.
The scrape marks on the Kawasaki were reminders of lessons Pearce learned when he began road racing over that past few years.
The Life Flight decal represented the helicopter service that carried Pearce from remote Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington to Harborview Hospital in Seattle.
Relatives and friends of Pearce Lutz arrived at Portland International Raceway for the Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association’s Lap of Honor.
Peter Lutz hadn’t been on a motorcycle since his son’s infancy, but just before the riders were called to the grid, he decided: Pearce would have desired him to ride.
He requested his son’s mentor, Cody Cochran, who jump-started an online fundraiser that raised over $27,000 to assist in paying for Pearce’s care, for a helmet to borrow.
Peter Lutz moved up to the front of the grid to join the dozens of other riders.
“I think it helped other people, too, to see his bike back out there,” Peter Lutz said, as reported by The Statesman Journal.
A memorial service for Pearce was held on June 29 at Salem Armory.
From the beginning, Pearce Lutz was motivated to serve others.
He was raised in Salem, earned his EMT certification at 18 and began working for Rural Metro in Eugene. He ended up in the residency program with Polk County Fire District, and then went back to Chemeketa Community College’s paramedicine program and was hired as a paramedic for Falck Salem.
Pearce followed in the footsteps of his mother, a nurse at Salem Hospital, into the medical field, but racing was his own idea.
He bought his first motorcycle when he was 19 and racing turned into a passion of his.
He was interested in road racing when he learned about the OMRRA and offered to be a corner worker at races in Portland.
He wasn’t content.
His first race took place in the 2017 season, and he was excited, but his start was not promising.
He crashed on the first of the two-day program. Despite this, he recovered, and came back the next day placing second in the race. However, he crashed on the cool-down lap.
“He had a concussion,” his mother Pennie said. “He was fine, nothing major.”
The reason for his crash was that a wheel bearing had frozen, making the rear wheel lock up, something that required new parts to fix.
“It was enough he didn’t have the money and the time to fix it to race for the rest of the year,” Peter Lutz said.
Pearce’s family had grown accustomed to gathering at races. His then-girlfriend Brooke Wolkenhauer, a respiratory therapist at Salem Hospital, would also join them.
Lutz got back on the track in 2018, and regardless of a steep learning curve, he won his first race his fourth time out and earned his spot on the podium late in the season.
Heading into the last event, he had a tight points battle with Jeffery Toevs, competing for the 600 Novice championship. It was the last event and Pearce needed to win each race at P.I.R. to win the title.
He just barely edged out Toevs at the finish line to win the first race and was behind Toevs a few laps into the next race. But Toevs was slowed down by a crash, which provided a chance for Pearce to pass him. He placed second and won the championship.
“All last year, no wrecks,” Peter Lutz said. “He did great.”
Pearce Lutz was itching for tougher competition.
After doing well as a novice road racer, he moved up to the 600 Supersport class in the OMRRA competition.
He showed potential when he won the 600 Sportsman class in April at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington. He was ecstatic, looking forward to his race on June 8 at The Ridge Motorsports Park, which is a technical road course situated on the western fringes of the Puget Sound, 30 miles northwest of Olympia.
But then he crashed again while attempting to avoid another rider who was having difficulties. Lutz was tossed through the air and landed hard.
He was conscious when medical workers got to him, and when Peter Lutz reached his son, Pearce said to him, “The first thing that went through my mind as I was flying through the air is that Brooke is going to be pissed.”
Lutz had fractures in his femur, pelvis, clavicle and ribs, injuries characteristic of a severe accident like his.
He spoke with Wolkenhuer—whom he had recently became engaged to during a hike on Black Butte—and had a phone interaction with his mother who was still in Salem, before he was whisked away on a Life Flight helicopter headed to Seattle.
However, before the helicopter arrived at Harborview Hospital, Lutz showed signs of a seizure. The helicopter was forced to touch ground in Bremerton so medics could intubate him.
Lutz’s situation was worse than the medics suspected.
The fracture in his femur produced fat emboli syndrome. An emboli from his bone marrow had made its way through Pearce’s blood vessels and had penetrated his lungs.
The doctors discovered an originally undetected congenital heart defect, and the fat emboli withheld the flow of blood to his brain, which caused brain damage. They performed several surgeries on Lutz to set the femur fracture and decrease the pressure on his brain.
But the brain damage was too drastic. Lutz did not regain consciousness after he boarded the helicopter.
Paramedics are not supposed to share about the details of those they serve, not even with their families.
Lutz followed the rules to the dot.
“Hey, I helped somebody” or “This is the best shift ever” about a night serving at Willamette Speedway was all that Pearce would tell his family.
Those that worked with Pearce told stories of how he went the extra mile during shifts for Falck, to assist EMTs working on skills necessary to become paramedics. They spoke of calls when Pearce picked up a patient and drove them to the hospital. He would not just drop them off and leave to wait for another call. He would stay and wait with them till they were given the care they required.
“We didn’t get to hear what he did and the lives he touched,” Pennie Lutz said.
His parents had to take their son off life support, which was difficult.
Lutz’s organs were donated and given to other patients, and medical staff found exact matches for his kidneys, liver, and some heart valves.
“It’s very fitting,” Pennie Lutz said. “We knew he would want that. There was really no question he would have wanted that. That’s how he was.”
The tributes that influenced his family the most were the stories told about him. Seeing his father on his motorcycle impacted everyone present that day.
As the riders began their Lap of Honor, officials passed out racing flags to the friends and well-wishers so that they could wave them at the front stretch wall while the group of riders—many who Lutz raced alongside—passed by.
Tears were shed when the spectators noticed that Pearce’s father was leading the procession.
“At the end of the straight when we went by on the official lap, Cody (Cochran) just pulls a wheelie up and takes off on a wheelie towards the corner,” said Larry Lulay, a friend of Pearce. “And Peter, on Pearce’s bike, chases him.”
See The Statesman Journal’s story here.