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Beloved downtown PHX ambassador dies after getting hit by drunk driver

Hans Hughes
Posted at 1:13 PM, Sep 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-23 07:27:09-04

PHOENIX — Hans Hughes, a beloved member of the Downtown Phoenix Ambassadors program and the downtown community, died Tuesday, weeks after he was struck by an alleged drunk driver while riding his bike home from work.

"Downtown lost a superhero," DTPHX, an organization that promotes downtown Phoenix businesses and the ambassadors, wrote Wednesday in social media posts.

"We love you so much Hans, and we know the entire community does too."

Hughes was struck on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, while on his bicycle heading home from work.

In August, a spokesperson for Phoenix police said the suspected driver ran a red light at First and Fillmore streets. That driver, who was not identified, was arrested and cited for DUI and failure to stop.

Hughes had spent the last few weeks in the hospital undergoing various surgeries and treatments.

Recently, he had shown signs of great improvement and was taken off the ventilator. However, his health rapidly declined over the weekend, according to updates posted to a GoFundMe account.

"Unfortunately his condition has rapidly declined since Saturday when his heart stopped and the medical team spent 20 minutes resuscitating him," Lauren Potter, the organizer behind the GoFundMe, wrote in an update.

"As a registered organ donor, our beautiful friend is being kept on life support in the hopes of finding a potential match… Even in his final moments Hans is brave, strong and overwhelmingly kind and selfless, and we are hoping he may be able to help save someone else’s life."

He died Tuesday. Since then, tributes have been pouring in, honoring Hughes.

Don Phillippi, one of the owners of Crown Public House in downtown Phoenix, says he was good friends with Hughes for the last 12 years.

“It’s definitely a huge blow for Phoenix,” he told ABC15.

He says Hughes would eat at Crown Public House often. “He actually used to eat here at least once a day, if not twice,” he added.

He says there wasn’t a week that went by where Hughes didn’t come in and brighten up the place with his smile.

“Hans, like, he got everything... everything out of life. He was always happy. Super energetic. When he talked to you, he would stare at you... you could tell you were the only thing that mattered,” he said.

That is why Phillippi still can’t believe he’s gone.

“It’s the last person you would think something negative would happen to,” he told ABC15.

Hughes’ sister, Hana Kuykendall, tells ABC15 the doctors said there was no hope of him surviving without life support after he suddenly suffered multiple cardiac arrests.

Kuykendall says the family is still in shock, and could not speak on camera, but they gave ABC15 the following statement:

“Hans was set to be transferred out to an acute rehabilitation facility to recover. Our family was calling the facilities on Friday, with hopes of him leaving Banner on Monday. Saturday morning he suffered a pulmonary embolism which put him in cardiac arrest. They spent 20min resuscitating Hans. After that he suffered 2 more cardiac arrests btwn Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday evening we were notified by the hospital that he had severe brain damage with no hope of recovering with out life support. Hans was a registered organ donor, so on Monday morning we started that process. Last night we removed the life support and watched him pass, while holding his hand. He was not an organ match for anyone, but they will be able to use his tissue for burn victims and skin grafts. This event on Saturday was completely random and unexpected. There was no way to predict it. Our hopes, our goals, our hearts that beat for Hans were crushed by the events of Saturday. We, along with the Phoenix community, are deeply grieving.”

Phillippi says he can’t even begin to imagine what his family is going through.

“It’s out of nowhere, you know what I mean,” added Phillippi.

Phillippi says Hughes' passing has left the community with a huge void.

“So many people loved him. Downtown Phoenix it’s such a big family, and he was the backbone of it,” he said.

That backbone is now gone. Phillippi says this hole can only be filled by keeping Hughes’ memory alive and remembering him by who he was - and by the bright orange shirt he wore proudly for the last 12 years as a Downtown Phoenix Ambassador.

The Ambassadors are known for wearing their bright orange shirts and act as immeasurable information resources, helping people find parking, recommending restaurants, or providing directions.

“Every time you see the orange shirt now, you remember Hans. So, hopefully, they don’t change the uniform,” Phillippi told ABC15.

He says Hughes’ legacy will live on through every act of kindness in the place he called home.

“It is a giant loss, and I’m glad I met him. I’m glad I got to know him,” said Phillippi.

A candlelight vigil will be held in Hughes' memory this Saturday at 6 p.m., at the Heritage Square Park's Lath House Pavilion (near 7th and Washington streets).

As of Wednesday, nearly $42,000 had been raised to help with his medical expenses and care.