He was steps away from a horrific crash in Worcester, Massachusetts, and watched his friend get hit by an alleged drunk driver. Now, Dan Aponte is determined to help his friend recover after both of the 36-year-old victim's legs were severed.
Aponte has known Andy Rodriguez for nearly a decade. He said they were on their way back from getting dinner Sunday when they stopped at Rodriguez's apartment. Aponte got out of the car while Rodriguez went to unload the trunk. Seconds later, Worcester Police say a drunk driver swerved and plowed right into Rodriguez, pinning him between the vehicles.
"I heard the impact," Aponte said. "And I just reflex grabbed my phone and called 911 as fast as I could. He was strong. He stayed with me the entire time. He had no problem talking with me to make sure that I was OK."
Since then, the driver, 22-year-old Jeffrey Pillco, has pleaded not guilty to charges of operating under the influence of alcohol causing serious injury. Rodriguez is still at a hospital recovering, but in stable condition. Aponte recently went to see him.
"He's stable, which is great, because he may have lost his legs, but we were able to save his life," Aponte said.
Their focus now is on support. They have set up a fundraising page online and donations are pouring in. A fundraiser is also being planned at the MB Lounge, where Rodriguez is a beloved bartender.
Aponte said if he has learned anything about his friend over the last decade, it is that he will come back from this tragedy.
"You cannot separate that man from serving behind the bar," Aponte said. "That's the kind of guy he is. He's going to do it with a smile. We're just going to keep going. We have to keep going."