Merced teen thrives after life-changing accident

MERCED, Calif.

Tye Dutcher survived an accident that cost him part of his leg, but not his spirit.

If you're looking for a little inspiration, look no further than this high school pool. Because that's where you'll find a 15 year old athlete whose spirit is even stronger than his freestyle.

Coach Steve Eccles said, "I think he's a great example not only in effort but in attitude also."

Tye Dutcher lost part of his right leg after an accident in his own backyard four years ago. His father was using a riding lawnmower when Tye playfully snuck up behind him. Doug Dutcher never saw his son as he put the mower in reverse, and backed over his bare foot.

"Emotionally I just lost it after they flew him off in the helicopter, it was really tough," Doug said. "But through everything he's gone through, his healing over the years has helped my healing too."

We first met Tye just months after doctors amputated his foot above the ankle. Even then, he was determined not to let his injury hold him back. He said, "It happened for a reason basically, and I know there's going to be so many things I can do."

He was right! Tye has learned to surf and snowboard, and is a stand-out swimmer and water polo player for Merced High. He said, "I moved up to varsity because I wanted more of a workout, more of a challenge because I can't get enough of it."

Tye placed in the top eight at the varsity league championships and is now staying busy with summer league water polo. He has a water-proof prosthetic but doesn't use it for either sport. He explained, "I'm completely comfortable, especially with my all my friends, and there's some people I don't know, but I don't care I want them to know that I don't have a foot and I can still do what I used to do."

This talented teen is also hoping to help others by sharing his story. He's spoken at several churches and is getting ready for his biggest audience yet at Merced's Gateway Community Church July 8th.

Tye said, "I want to connect with them because I want them to feel the message and know just to not give up and to keep pushing through whatever happens in their life."

His positive attitude has also helped his parents and four siblings cope with the accident. His three older brothers and sister all joined the military, one of the only things Tye can't do.

Tye's mother, Kim Dutcher told Action News, "Tye was looking at all of the pictures, and it was neat because you'd think he would be sad yet he was very proud of his siblings, and he said I know I have a different purpose."

In fact, Tye says he wouldn't change what happened even if he could, because it's given him such a meaningful mission. He said, "I feel like I can inspire people now, I have a reason, I have a purpose, for this and this is my purpose is to inspire and encourage because I want to show them if I can do it, they can do it."

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