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Man still on road to recovery nearly a year after being injured by boat propellers

Jonathan Cruz says he still has to undergo multiple surgeries

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MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – For the first time since a horrific freak accident on the water, a young father is speaking to Local 10 News about the day a stranger saved his life and his life was changed forever.

"I remember looking at my wife and I was basically saying 'bye' to her. I knew I was going to die," Jonathan Cruz said. 

Cruz spent Father's Day last year boating off Elliot Key with his wife and two children when a fellow boater who was stuck on a sandbar asked for help. Cruz and his cousin went to their aid.

"I was walking toward the back of the boat and then it turned on. (It's) literally how you see in the movies when you get sucked into something -- that's how I felt," Cruz said.

Authorities said someone, reportedly a child, accidentally turned the key in the ignition. 

Cruz was right by the propellers.

His pelvis was shredded and he started bleeding profusely immediately.

Cruz said he went numb and started to drift away.

"I was going out and she was telling me, 'Your kids and your wife need you. Stay up,'" Cruz said.

Cruz believes he would not be here today if not for an off-duty Miami-Dade firefighter who happened to be on a boat nearby.

"What are the odds of that, that a firefighter is out there with an IV?" Cruz said, 

"The fact that he gave him the fighting chance to get to the hospital is insane," Cruz's wife, Jessica Cruz, said.  

Miami-Dade firefighter Terrance Dolan kept Cruz stable until he could be airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center. 

Cruz was in a coma for two weeks. Doctors weren't sure he was going to live for three months and said he will never be the same.

"A lot more surgeries and they're still trying to reconstruct my rectum because the propellers took my rectum," Cruz said.

Cruz is also still fighting to save his right leg.

His wife, who he met in ninth grade and married eight years ago, is his aide, his nurse and his sunshine. Together they have 4-year-old twins and so much to live for.

"We are really blessed because he was given that fighting chance. Not everyone is given that fighting chance," Jessica Cruz said. 

Jonathan Cruz said he wants others to remember his plight and always be safe on the water.

"If you are out on the sandbar and you are not going anywhere for a while, take the keys out of the ignition," he said. "You can have fun. Be smart out there."

A GoFundMe page was created after the accident to help the Cruz family during their time of need.