Richard S. Thill thought his wife was going to die, after their car was hit head-on in Glen Head on Friday morning.
Thill, 66, said he and his wife, Barbara, 65, were on their way to the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center from their home in Sea Cliff, when "all of sudden, out of absolutely nowhere, this car impacted us."
Thill, who served in the Vietnam War, said he was driving a white Volkswagen car when a motorist who police said was driving recklessly struck a pedestrian, teacher Christopher Whalley, and then collided with the Thills.
Cruz Correa, 28, of 21-31 Brewster St. in Glen Cove, was arrested and charged with reckless driving, police said. He will be arraigned at a later date once he recovers from injuries, police said. His condition was not available Saturday.
Thill said he was four blocks from his home when the accident occurred. "There wasn't enough time to step on the brake because it happened so fast."
"I couldn't breathe, I pushed the door open of the car and I laid on the ground on my side," he said. He said he broke four or five ribs and remained hospitalized Saturday.
"My wife wasn't so lucky," he said.
He said she was unconscious after the accident and a fuel truck driver stopped to "tend to my wife."
"I couldn't move . . . I wanted to be there to hold her," he said.
He said his wife also had her spleen removed, a bowel resection and internal bleeding. She had a second surgery Saturday afternoon and doctors told him that they expect her to recover. A hospital spokesman Saturday said she was in critical condition.
"I thought she was dead in the car, it was such a horrific accident," Thill said.
Whalley, who has taught Latin for at least 15 years at North Shore middle and high schools and who was honored in 2007 by the Harvard Club of Long Island, was in stable condition Saturday, a North Shore hospital official said.
A law enforcement source said officials believe Correa was driving drunk or high on drugs. They were also investigating whether he had run a red light, adding that the teacher had the right of way and was in the crosswalk when he was struck.
Nassau police said Saturday they didn't have new information.
With Kevin Deutsch