Just hours after surgery, a crash survivor expressed her gratitude for a good Samaritan's act of heroism that cost him his life.
Lyndsee Longoria sat surrounded by her sister, boyfriend and young sons Tuesday in the lobby of Methodist Dallas Medical Center as she recounted the tragedy that landed her there.
Sunday night, she stopped her vehicle just an exit away from home along U.S. Highway 67 at Interstate 35E to help the driver of a Ford Explorer whose vehicle was disabled in a hit-and-run crash move his SUV off the road.
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"I said, 'We're going to try to push it out of the road. We have to get this out of the road. Someone's going to get hurt,'" Longoria recalled.
They worked for just a few minutes before another driver, 38-year-old Michael Donnelly, saw them and stopped to help.
The good Samaritans exchanged just enough words to formulate a plan. But as the pair began helping move the Explorer, they were struck by a 19-year-old driving a Honda sedan who swerved to avoid hitting the unlit SUV.
"I had just gotten to the driver's side. As soon as I put my hands on the vehicle, it was like a flash of light. I didn't see anything. I didn't feel it. I just knew that I had been hit," Longoria said.
"Someone in the midst of the accident had grabbed my shirt and pulled me. I didn't realize it was him (Donnelly)," Longoria said.
Hours later she learned that man's name. She also learned he didn't survive the crash.
"That man died a hero. My hero, at least," Longoria said.
Through surgeries and recovery, she's done her best to learn more about him. But her true closure came Tuesday evening when she got the chance to speak by phone with Donnelly's father hundreds of miles away in Ohio.
Through tears, she tried to find the right words.
"I just wanted to tell you that your son was my hero. He is my hero. He passed saving my life. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here today," Longoria said.
By the end of the conversation, she received kindness from a stranger that she was longing to hear.
"You don't dare feel like you caused anything. You guys are all heroes in my heart. And what you tried to do, I'm at peace. I'm at peace," said Donnelly's father, Rich Donnelly.
It's a moment Longoria won't soon forget, as she looks ahead to being released from the hospital to live out her second chance while raising two boys of her own.