Boating accident victim reunites with those who saved his life

Jonathan Cruz underwent 30 surgeries after getting struck by boat propeller

MIAMI – A South Florida man went to Jackson Memorial Hospital on Wednesday morning to reunite with the people who saved his life last year after a boating accident on Father's Day.

"This one really hit home for me on a personal level because I am a boater and I was out there with my kids," Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Terrance Dolan said. 

The accident is a Father's Day connection that Dolan and Jonathan Cruz will share forever. 

Cruz was out on the water with his twins and his wife at Elliot Key last June when a nearby boater asked for help getting off a sandbar. As Cruz got close to the boat, someone accidentally turned it on and put it in gear.

"I wasn't behind the boat yet. I was still a couple feet away -- probably like 2 or 3 feet away -- and then I just remember getting sucked in," Cruz said. 

Dolan was nearby on a boat with his family. He heard the screams, grabbed an emergency bag and headed out to help.

"We took a bunch of dry beach towels, packed it up and then tied it as tight as we could to stop the bleeding as much as possible," Dolan said. "And then, at that time, luckily I had an IV, and I started an IV on him."

By starting an IV and reducing blood loss, Dolan kept Cruz alive until he could be airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.

"This injury took place in the water, and so there is a high risk for infection that adds to the insult from the initial traumatic injury," Dr. Joyce Kaufman said. 

Kaufman led the team that kept Cruz in a coma for three weeks and performed 30 surgeries followed by intense therapy. Though his leg and pelvis were severely injured, the medical team that worked on him see him as a miracle.

"It was very traumatic, even for me, because it was just a lot. I felt very emotional afterward," Dolan said.   

"I was blessed," Cruz said. "You know, I was blessed to be here."

Cruz still has multiple surgeries ahead of him. A GoFundMe page has been created to help him and his family during their time of need.