Driver in LIE wrong-way crash: 'I'm blessed'

Joe DeGuardia's Mercedes-Benz was hit head-on by a

Joe DeGuardia's Mercedes-Benz was hit head-on by a wrong-way driver on the Long Island Expressway, police say. (July 30, 2012) (Credit: Steve Pfost)

For a split second, Joe DeGuardia thought he was dead.

The boxing promoter's Mercedes-Benz had just been hit head-on early Sunday by a wrong-way driver on the Long Island Expressway. The car he had purchased just two weeks before was spinning out of control, and DeGuardia was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Through it all, he thought of his children.

"I was thinking about my two kids," he said Monday from his hospital bed at Nassau University Medical Center. "How are my two kids going to get by without me?"

Though he suffered a broken rib and multiple bruises in the crash, DeGuardia remained in stable condition at the hospital Monday. The man who slammed into him in the 4:15 a.m. crash was not as lucky. Police said the 23-year-old driver of the 2008 Honda Civic was pronounced dead at the scene at Exit 41 of the westbound LIE. The man's passenger, a 24-year-old woman, remained in critical condition at the hospital where DeGuardia is recovering.

Police did not release the name of the man or the woman Monday pending the result of a medical examiner's autopsy.

DeGuardia, 49, said he was heading home to Westchester from the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, where the company he runs had just hosted a boxing card. He stayed until nearly 4 a.m. before heading to the LIE.

Police said DeGuardia was driving west in the middle lane when the cars collided.

DeGuardia said the other driver's headlights appeared to be turned off. After the cars collided and his vehicle came to a stop, DeGuardia said he was helped by a man who identified himself as a firefighter. The man was banging at the passenger door, DeGuardia recalled, screaming, "You've got to get out."

"There's a one in a million shot that someone is driving the wrong way," DeGuardia said. "But I have to look at it that I'm blessed that people were there to help."

DeGuardia was hooked up Monday to an IV and was wearing a neck brace as he sat in his hospital bed. He suffered a fractured rib and bruised shoulders, and said doctors are examining his spine for possible injuries.

"I'm feeling all right, a lot of pain, just a lot of pain," DeGuardia said.

His wife, Lisa, and his mother, Millie, were at his bedside, shocked but grateful he survived.

"It's just amazing that he is alive and that he made it through," Lisa DeGuardia said. "He's told his son he's Superman and that he's not going down."

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