George Hartwell tells HollywoodLife.com exclusively that Zachary was working on a documentary before he died and reveals that Zac’s wife Rachel ‘heard the crash’ that killed her husband. Plus he says they won’t be suing Ryan’s estate.
Ryan Dunn‘s tragic car crash has been all over the news this past week, but it’s important to also commemorate Zachary Hartwell, 30, the passenger in Ryan’s car. Zachary, known as “Zac” by his loved ones, has left behind a devastated wife and family including his father, George Hartwell, who spoke exclusively to HollywoodLife.com about his beloved son’s death. George revealed that Zac had been working on a documentary and also confessed that Zac had spoken with him just a day before he died about starting a family. Mr. Hartwell also talks about why his family won’t be suing Ryan’s estate.
Zachary was a Navy veteran from a military family (his father and five of his seven siblings are serving or have served the US). Zac served for six years and was deployed to Iraq just hours after the World Trade Center Towers fell on 9/11.
“Besides being a comedic individual, my son was a loving individual, he was a tough individual. At the time, he had been working on a documentary about a very serious subject matter, reveals Mr. Hartwell.”
When asked what the documentary was about and if it would still go forward with production, George said, “You will have to speak to Bam [Margera] about that and yes, Bam said that it would be made. I can’t reveal too much about the documentary but I can say that it was Zac’s idea from start to finish. He was consumed with it for the past two years of his life, working at Bam’s house on it day and night. This was his passion and dream. Bam promised me that he would see to it that it comes out. What would make me happiest is to one day watch the documentary and see that it says ‘This is dedicated to Zachary Hartwell’. When people see it they will be shocked because they will be expecting something funny, but it’s a very serious subject matter and it’s not ‘Jackass’-related at all.”
When asked how Zac’s wife, Rachel, was doing, George said, “She is still in shock. It’s funny, my son just told me on Father’s Day — the day before the accident — that they were thinking about starting a family.”
The story gets even more heartbreaking. “Zac and Ryan were just 30 seconds away from Zac’s home when the accident happened. Rachel actually heard the crash but didn’t think it had anything to do with Zac. The tree they hit is on Zac’s property. They were going too fast, they didn’t make the turn. The car was airborne for about 150 feet before it burst into flames,” explains Mr. Hartwell.
Despite the fact that Ryan was driving drunk when the car crashed on June 20, George said the Hartwell family has no plans to sue Ryan’s estate. “Why would we sue? Zac made the same mistakes. He speeds, he drives like a maniac, he drinks. Why should I make a monetary gain on my son’s death? It’s not going to bring him back. They both made the same mistake. Mistakes are made.”
It’s obvious in the way he remembers his son that George deeply loved and respected him. “I used to tease Zac and call him ‘Zachidan, the Kissing Man’. When he was a little boy he always tried to kiss all the girls but most of the kisses he got were from 25-years-old and older. Everyone who met Zac, walked away feeling good. He treated everybody equally. It didn’t matter if you were a bum or the President. Zac would always win people over.”
Zac’s family said goodbye to him in a memorial on Saturday in the family’s hometown of West Chester, Pennsylvania. “It was unbelievable how many people came to Zac’s services. I thought there would be about 50 people. There must have been between 400-500 people there. There were so many people, that some had to stand outside. At one point the funeral director said to speed up the line because we’d only booked the room for two hours. We didn’t expect so many people to show up. I’ve never met so many people. Bam was there. I think he was more shook up than I was. He spent a lot of time talking to my wife about the documentary Zac was working on.”
And what would George like people to know about his son? “He was following his dreams. He didn’t let anything get in the way of his dreams. So many people have dreams but still work at jobs they hate. So follow your dreams and stick to it and see how far you can go!”
George, who reveals that Zac and Ryan had the “same sense of humor” says it is laughter that is helping him deal with his loss. “Laughter, laughter has always been my medicine. I had a stroke, and two heart attacks and laughed my way through it. You have a choice. My motto is, ‘If you can’t laugh about it, get out of the picture’. You must keep your sense of humor, I know this is what Zac would want.”
Our thoughts and condolences go out to George and the rest of the Hartwell family. It sounds like Zac was a brave and loving individual, and it is so sad to hear of his big plans for his future, but he leaves a lot of people behind who will cherish him and hold him in the highest regard.
Bam has had a very emotional and tough time dealing with Ryan and Zac’s deaths, but maybe this documentary will be just what he needs to help memorialize his friend.
Reporting by Sandra Clark and Russ Weakland
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