MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A homeless has been sentenced to 15 years in jail — a year after driving drunk and plowing into a group of teenagers.
One teen who was seriously hurt spoke out about his long recovery with CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge on Monday.
Nicholas Suarez walked out of Nassau County Court after coming face to face with the drunk driver who ran him and his friends down a year ago in West Hempstead.
That driver, 43-year-old Luis De Jesus, was sentenced Monday morning to 15 years in jail.
“I waited so long to look this guy in the face and I kept saying, ‘When can I go to court? When can I got to court? When can I go to court?’ And finally I looked this guy in the eye. I told him, I said ‘I want you to see my face,'” said Suarez, 15.
Suarez almost died after he was hit and dragged by the mini van De Jesus was driving on Oct. 27, 2017. Suarez had been skateboarding with six of his friends at a shopping center parking lot on Cherry Valley Avenue when the car barreled toward them. His friends managed to get out of the way, but Suarez got pinned underneath the van.
He spent five weeks recovering at Winthrop Hospital. He said he still suffers from bleeding on the brain and has permanent vision damage.
“Last 365 days have been very painful. Horrible, senseless, careless … Nobody should ever go behind the wheel of a car drunk,” said Emily Rivera, Suarez’s mother.
After the crash, a group of good Samaritans held De Jesus at the accident scene until police arrived. His blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, Duddridge reported.
Though Suarez said he now has some sense of closure, he’s not sure his physical and emotional pain will ever go away.
“Leg pain, hip pain, back pain, get headaches all the time … It used to hurt to laugh. When my friends would come to the hospital and visit me they would make me laugh. It would hurt,” Suarez said.
He said he wishes he could one day play football and skateboard again, but said he likely never will.
Suarez said even though his friends weren’t physically hurt, they’re still dealing with anxiety and trauma.