Steps toward justice: Ellenton man learns to walk again after losing legs in wreck

Manatee County

BRADENTON, Fla. (WFLA) — An Ellenton man is beating the odds, learning to walk again after losing his legs in a freak accident last December.

After coming back from the brink of death, all 73-year-old Tom Simmons can do is take each day step by step.

“It’s a wonderful day for me,” Simmons said, while slowly making his way across the rehab room with assistance from his therapists at Bradenton Health Care. “He took my legs away, but he hasn’t taken my spirit.”

Simmons is referring to Johnny Durrance, the man who police say is to blame for the wreck that cost him his legs. Meanwhile, Durrance still walks free.

A Vietnam veteran, Simmons became a double amputee last December after investigators say Durrance crashed his car into him. Simmons was standing behind his landscaping truck at the time, which caused him to be pinned between the two vehicles. Durrance’s car showed no signs of breaking.

“I didn’t know my legs was gone until I woke up in intensive care,” Simmons said.

His body still has much recovery to do, and he has to speak through a respirator. But now, nearly ten months later, Simmons is learning to walk again with the aid of prosthetics.

“It brings tears to my eyes I’m so happy,” said his wife, Cathy Christian-Simmons. “I’m so proud of him.”

With her husband focused on recovery, Christian-Simmons is focused on finding justice.

It took Bradenton police more than two months to arrest Johnny Durrance for driving on a suspended license. He’s been charged with a third-degree felony due to the severity of the crash.

The case was set to go to trial last week. It’s now been pushed back two more months, something that worries Christian-Simmons, as the medical bills pile up.

“You just have to have faith,” Christian-Simmons said. “Trust that things will get accomplished and justice will be served.”

And it’s that faith that will carry the Simmons every step of the way.

“All I’m asking for now is justice,” Tom Simmons said.

Johnny Durrance is scheduled to stand trial on November 25th.

Simmons’ goal is to be able to walk by himself by mid-December, just in time for his wife’s birthday, their wedding anniversary, and the one year anniversary of the accident.

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