SEFFNER, Fla. (WFLA) — The last moment Chris Rodriguez clearly remembers is laying on the ground after being hit by a wrong-way driver.
The Riverview resident was driving his usual route, getting off Interstate 75 South at the State Road 574 exit. According to Florida Highway Patrol, a 36-year-old Tampa man drove his car the wrong direction on the ramp and crashed into Rodriguez.
“I was literally in a panic,” Rodriguez said. “Because I know if I would have stayed there, I probably would have died.”
And his injuries are severe — broken ribs, a fractured shoulder, an injured arm, multiple stitches on his knee and head. He also may not be able to see out of his left eye ever again.
“I remember praying,” Rodriguez recalled. “Saying, ‘God, help me get through this.'”
Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said after the crash, the wrong-way driver’s car had a gas leak, causing his car catching on fire.
Firefighters managed to get the man out of the burning vehicle quickly while using a fire extinguisher to keep the flames from spreading. HCFR said another crew arrived afterward and put the fire out completely.
“For a split second, I saw the car,” Rodriguez remembered. “I said, ‘Oh no.’ I tried to swerve it. And that’s all I can remember.”
Rodriguez said he spent five days in the ICU at Tampa General Hospital, and his family never left his side.
“My wife was there,” Rodriguez said. “She’s stronger than I thought she would be.”
When Lauren Reynolds, Rodriguez’s friend and colleague, heard about the crash, she knew she had to help.
“I know he’s a stubborn guy, and I know he’s going to come back from it,” Reynolds said. “He’s not one to give up. He’s the person to give his shirt off of his back to you.”
Reynolds started a GoFundMe and collected donations from all over to help
“Most people would let the mental aspect take over and most people get defeated,” Reynolds said. “I know if he could get up and go to work, he would do it.”
FHP said the crash is still under investigation. If you’d like to donate to the GoFundMe or reach out to the family, you can do so here.