One severely injured victim of DIA crash hopes to be a pilot

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DENVER -- Seven people remained in the hospital Thursday, some in serious condition, after a fuel tanker crashed into an employee transport van in the cargo area at Denver International Airport on Tuesday night.

Six of the seven being treated at University of Colorado Hospital are employees of UPS who were in the van when the crash happened.

The mother of one man who suffered the most serious injuries hopes doctors and nurses can help save her son’s lifelong dream.

In nearly every photo of Daniel Skousen, the 25-year-old is by a plane, in a plane or holding a plane. His mother said planes have always been his passion.

“That's why he’s over at the airport to be next to the planes while is going to school,” Debbie Mayer said.

Skousen, she said, is in school at Metro State University of Denver where he was about to begin his last semester studying mechanical engineering with a focus on aviation.

"The passion for airplanes and flying, that's what he wants to be, he wants to be a pilot,” she said of her only child. “From the age of 4 he knew what he wanted to be."

It’s also why she said he works two jobs between classes, one at a flight simulation center, the other at UPS’s cargo facility at DIA.

“That was the risk in his job is loading and unloading planes,” Mayer said.

She said Skousen and nine of his co-workers had just finished their shift on Tuesday night.

They were being shuttled in a transport van from the cargo area to the parking lot just before 11 p.m. when Mayer got a call.

“All I was told is there was an accident, my son was involved,” she said.

The Denver Police Department said a fuel tanker t-boned the van.

“He took a direct hit from that fuel tanker, along with some other employees,” Mayer said.

On Thursday outside the hospital, Mayer looked exhausted, but remains positive and strong.

“He is in the best place he can be,” she said. “I'm hoping for no long term deficits from his brain injury.”

Skousen is in an induced coma after suffering broken ribs, a shattered eye socket and a traumatic brain injury.

“Daniel got a craniotomy so he’s missing half of his skull now,” she said of the first of the major surgeries he underwent.

She said Skousen has a long battle ahead, as do many of his co-workers, who were also in the van and suffered broken bones, cuts and bruises.

“It's life-changing for all of them," Mayer said. "My son has some very serious injuries that I’m concerned for. ... My hope is that he can pursue his dreams."

Mayer says UPS’s workman’s compensation insurance should cover the medical bills, but many of the people still being treated at the hospital might be out of work for some time.

Skousen will remain in an induced coma for at least three weeks and Mayer said it will be six months before another surgery to reconnect his skull.

Police are still investigating the crash and what caused the driver of the fuel tanker to hit the transport van. The driver has not yet been cited. ​

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