Oakdale Man Dies 5 Years After Crash that Left Him with Traumatic Brain Injury

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OAKDALE -- Eric Peterson spent his final days listening to the radio, all 6-foot-7-inches of him stretched out in his hospital bed in the living room of a home in Oakdale, a home off a dirt road that his family fought for four years to get him back to.

It was at home where the 27-year-old died unexpectedly Saturday.

"Took his last breath, you know," said Eric's father, Michael Peterson.

"Five years to the day," he said.

It was exactly five years from the crash that left him bed-ridden with a traumatic brain injury.

"Thank God for the last five years," Michael Peterson said.

Peterson said he feels it has been a blessing to have been by his son's side, taking care of him, ever since.

"I would have done it for 20 years ... just. I loved that boy," he said.

In 2012, Eric's car was rear-ended at a stop sign in Utah by a man who was accused of stealing a police car and driving it under the influence.

First, Eric was trapped in the wreckage and then in a Utah hospital, his family felt, because the state said his parents were not financially stable and they appointed Eric a legal guardian.

That guardian previously told FOX40 no care homes in Stanislaus County would take Eric.

"I know that I did well by him," his dad said.

So Michael Peterson moved to Utah.

"I fought four years, I lived on the streets of Utah and I stuck with it," he said.

Last winter, FOX40 documented Eric's journey home, when Eric's guardian said his condition improved enough that he could move back home, and Eric finally made it back in December.

Eric was doing better at home. He just had dental work done and just got new glasses.

Just a week before Eric died, he had a second surgery to fuse his atrophied foot. His family believes he may have had a blood clot, but they're waiting on the results of an autopsy.

"It hasn't hit me yet," Michael Peterson said.

But what is hitting him now is 27 years of memories. The father and son outfits. The little boy on a big elephant. The teenager towering over his dad.

"I'm missing my best friend," he said.

But Michael knows he will see his son again.

"I can't hardly wait, I'll have to wait though, for the day when I see my son again and he tells me, 'welcome home dad,'" he said.

Eric's family is holding a celebration for life for Eric on Nov. 4 at a park in Oakdale.

They are raising money for Eric's cremation expenses.