Breaking News
More () »

'I would forgive him, but I can’t forget:' Valley man who lost both of his legs to suspected drunk driver speaks out

Jeremiah Washington said he wants justice but thanks the suspect for giving him a new outlook on life.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Shortly after Jeremiah Washington turned 23 years old, a suspected drunk driver hit him, causing him to lose both of his legs.

The tragic accident gave Jeremiah a new outlook on life.

“I’m blessed to still be here because it could have been much worse,” he told 12News on Tuesday, nearly three months after the accident. “I would forgive him, but I can’t forget.”

Jeremiah said the last few weeks haven’t been easy. He’s had to learn to adjust to his new life, and that has taught him to live and enjoy every moment. To not take anything for granted and realize how things can change in an instant, he added.

“I look at my son, and he helps me get through my days,” Jeremiah said. “I read the bible now, and that’s where my faith is. I let God take control of the situation, so my faith is in God.”

Fateful day

On June 25th, Jeremiah and one of his younger brothers went to get a haircut and planned to go out to eat afterward.

They were in his siblings’ car, and he had clothes he wanted to wear for lunch in the trunk. Minutes after he stepped outside the car and walked to the rear of the vehicle, an SUV crashed into him near 46th and Glendale avenues.

“I heard a loud boom, but I didn’t think anything of it, and then I realized he had just hit us,” Jeremiah remembered. “I did try to take a few steps, not knowing my legs were broken at the time, and I fell to the ground. That’s when I [saw] everyone running to me trying to help me.”

His brother and girlfriend were among those who ran to his aid.

“She was right there trying to tell me to stay awake,” Jeremiah said. “She was telling me my eyes were rolling back and to think about my son, and that’s what I thought about. My son. The entire time.”

The father of two was rushed to the hospital in serious condition. The damage to his legs was so severe that doctors couldn’t save either of them.

“I knew it was serious when I asked my brother to pick me up, and he saw my legs and it scared him because he suddenly dropped me,” he added. “When I was in the ambulance, and they [put the tourniquet] on my legs. That’s when I knew.”

Waiting for justice

On the day of the wreck, court records obtained by 12News show police arrested 47-year-old Jerry Odogui Hernandez. Witnesses told investigators they saw him drive the vehicle before the accident and after it, attempting to leave the scene.

Records state Hernandez told witnessed “that he had been drinking beer.”

The suspect was blood tested, and the results show his alcohol level was above the legal limit, arresting records said.

Hernandez was booked into jail, and two days after the crash, he bonded out.

He has not been formally charged by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. The agency said the case is under review and previously told 12News the Office is facing a backlog of DUI criminal cases.

Hernandez has a criminal record that includes past convictions for drunk driving.

A new take on life

If there was one thing Jeremiah would ask the suspected drunk driver, is why he drove drunk and hit him, but also share how the accident changed him for the better.

“I would also like to thank him,” he said. “Because I look at life way different. And I’m blessed to be where I am now.”

Jeremiah hopes to one day be a motivational speaker and share his new positive take on life with others who might also have experienced the loss of limbs.

“I definitely try my hardest to keep the negative out of my life. If I let the negative in, I know it will destroy me. So, the positive, can’t nothing destroy me,” he said.

Jeremiah’s family is fundraising to get him new prosthetic legs, which they say each cost around $50,000. If you’d like to help, you can donate here.

Up to Speed

Catch up on the latest news and stories on the 12News YouTube channel. Subscribe today.

Before You Leave, Check This Out