By Sonja Isger – The Palm Beach Post – Joel Solis, a 24-year-old from West Palm Beach, died this weekend in a car crash on Florida’s Turnpike. A tire blew out on the Ford Explorer he was in, and as it collided with guardrails and spun with abandon, Solis was thrown from the cab’s safety and he died on the scene.
His death has plunged not only his family, but a community institution into mourning. Jack the Bike Man, aka Jack Hairston, wonders if his charity — the one Solis adopted as a second home — will ever be the same.
Really, Solis and Jack the Bike Man came together over blown tires — of the two-wheel variety.
Back in the day, maybe 2003, when Hairston was working off his front porch in Northwood, with an inventory of bikes for donation in the back, Hairston put together enough money for his first Christmas party giveaway. He’s pretty sure Solis, not even 10 yet, was one of the recipients. He’d known the kid since Hairston rented a home to Joel’s family.
Punctured tires kept the boy coming back.
“He had a lot of flat tires, and wasn’t riding his bike, and I said, ‘Let’s fix them,’ ” Hairston recalled Sunday, a day after the crash. “I taught him how to fix them and gave him inner tubes and a pump and told him to help other kids in the neighborhood.”
Solis was a natural.
By high school, Solis came to the shop to earn the volunteer hours he needed for graduation. Hairston is certain the day Solis graduated from Palm Beach Lakes High, he hired him full-time. That was 2012.
“He’s really been my go-to person in the shop. I could ask everyone to do something and it wouldn’t get done. If I asked Joel, he’d get it done,” Hairston said.
Going to the airport and don’t want to pay to park? Solis would give you a ride.
Solis became a big brother of sorts to another young man — and takes that kid to the gym every day before work, Hairston said.
And when Solis’ uncle was murdered about a year ago, Solis moved over there to help the man’s wife and kids, Hairston said.
Solis had been up in Central Florida, though Hairston’s not exactly certain where, and was headed back south on the turnpike with two others Saturday. He was due to work that day and texted his young protege asking that someone give Hairston a heads-up that he was still en route, Hairston said.
Solis risked life and limb daily, some might say, riding his bike from 41st Street to Hairston’s shop, now located just north of Belvedere Road near Dixie Highway. “He’s been knocked off his bike many times,” Hairston said.
But five minutes after texting that he was headed down the highway, running late for work, Solis was dead, Hairston said.
The three were southbound in Indian River County just after 10 a.m. when the tire blew out. The driver, who was wearing his seatbelt, subsequently lost control of the car, according to the Florida Highway Patrol report. He suffered minor injuries. Another passenger, who was not belted in, escaped without injury. According to the report, the crash was not alcohol-related and “The cause of the crash remains under investigation.”
Solis is survived by family, including his mother and three sisters, Hairston said. The bike shop is collecting money to help pay for services, what’s left over will go to Solis’ mother, he said.
“He was just one of the kindest people you’d ever, ever meet in your life. I would’ve protected him to the death,” Hairston said. “He was such a damn good kid, — pardon my French. He’s a tremendous loss to so many people.”
For more articles on Joel Solis please see the links below: