On New Year’s Day, student body President Cesar Hernandez did not expect to land in the hospital after enduring a near-fatal car accident, but that’s exactly where he found himself three hours into the new year.
After leaving a family party around 3 p.m. in New York City, Cesar Hernandez fell asleep in the back seat of a car while his brother Jose Rolon was driving on Westside Highway. Two of Rolon’s friends were also in the car.
As Rolon turned a corner, ice on the road caused the vehicle to hit a snowbank where it was hit by oncoming traffic then a taxi, pushing the vehicle into a light pole. This split the car in two, throwing Cesar Hernandez out onto the road.
“When I woke up, I literally was in the middle of the highway and there were people screaming and there was glass and blood all over me,” he said. “Cars were zooming by me.”
Cesar Hernandez said Rolon pulled him to the side of the road.
“The first thing I tried to do was wiggle my toes and my fingers just to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed, but I just remember that I couldn’t move,” Cesar Hernandez said. “I just remember I had on my blazer and I was freezing. People are just trying to keep me conscious. It was just a horrifying ordeal. Then the ambulance came and took me to the St. Luke’s Hospital. It was like a movie.”
He said the doctors discovered that his right arm was badly bruised and his cervical vertebrae was fractured.
“I was in so much pain. I was screaming. I was just like, ‘It hurts,'” he said. “I thought that I shattered my arm. It was so badly bruised and mangled.”
The doctors told Cesar Hernandez that he was “lucky to be alive.”
“Another nurse was telling me that a similar accident happened the week before and the woman was actually paralyzed from the waist down,” he said. “They told me the reason that helped me was that I have a bigger build and my long hair. I had my hair in a bun so when my head hit the asphalt it took most of the shock.”
His younger sister, Alma Hernandez, said her mom received news of the accident and they both arrived at the hospital the same day.
“It was just really scary to find out that had happened. Even more during the holiday,” she said. “When I got there he was under a lot of supervision. He couldn’t stand up or sit down. A lot of our family members were emotional about it.”
Alma Hernandez said Cesar Hernandez asked her to communicate with everyone via Facebook about the accident in case there were people trying to get in touch with him, which is how student body Vice President Spencer Montgomery learned of the accident.
“I’m glad he’s okay,” he said. “I’m sure he’ll be back in full swing because that’s the kind of hard worker he is.”
Cesar Hernandez said the doctor told him he was well enough to return to USF and he will heal.
“I have to go through physical therapy for my back, but should be good after a month,” he said. “All I can think of (is) I want to get back to my life. When I get out of my bed after two days of not being able to walk and being able to walk around the hospital, I was ecstatic. It’s crazy how the things we take for granted.”
Cesar Hernandez said his brother had three broken ribs and his two friends landed in the snow with no injuries.
“I’m happy to be alive,” he said. “I cherish even more what I do and my position and the things we’re trying to finish up this semester before we hand it down.”
Rolon could not be reached for an interview.