An Irving firefighter struck by a wrong-way driver on Texas 183 early Sunday while responding to a drunken-driving crash has a traumatic brain injury but is showing slow, significant signs of improvement, officials say.
Firefighter Aaron Donohue was in the "hot zone" early Sunday morning, working in the westbound lanes of Texas 183 where he and other rescue personnel were responding to a drunken-driving crash.
Fire Chief Victor Conley said Monday afternoon that the westbound lanes of 183 were closed at the time and that the driver who struck Donohue entered the "hot zone" headed in the wrong direction.
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As the car plowed through the crash scene, Donohue was struck and, according to Conley, "thrown a pretty good height and distance from where he was."
Fellow firefighters rushed to his side and found him unconscious and not breathing. Conley said Donohue regained his breath and firefighters did an assessment and transported him to the hospital as they would anyone else.
"By the hand of God there was not one single broken bone in firefighter Donohue," Conley said, who added that there was, however, evidence of a traumatic brain injury the severity of which is not fully known.
Conley said Donohue has had three CT scans in the last 24 hours and that he is making "slow, but significant improvements." Conley said Donohue is communicating with simple signs but is having a difficult time remembering his name.
Donohue was moved from the ER to the ICU where he has a 24/7 nurse; he also has visitation from family and firefighters are sitting with him in two-hour blocks around the clock.
Conley said Donohue is very active off-duty with his church and is single with no children.
"I will tell you, there's probably not a single firefighter that you would interview today that wouldn't tell you that he's a top-notch guy," Conley said. "His faith is extremely strong and his public service for his community is outstanding."
Irving police identified the driver of the car Sunday as 23-year-old Yajaira Estrada Calderon, of Arlington. Calderon, police said Monday, didn't stop right away but was stopped a short time after the crash. She said she thought she was headed to Arlington, but she was headed east toward Dallas.
Police said they aren't yet sure how long Calderon had been traveling in the wrong direction, but that she was headed eastbound in the westbound lanes before Esters Road, where traffic diverted from 183 for the original crash scene near Story Road was being directed back on the highway.
Calderon is facing a charge of intoxication assault with serious bodily injury to a firefighter, a 2nd-degree felony. She is currently being held in the Irving City Jail on $50,000 bond. It's not clear if she's obtained an attorney.
Because the injury to Donohue is the result of a suspected intoxicated driver, and because he was on the freeway responding to a crash related to another suspected intoxicated driver, police are urging those who are out drinking to find a safe way home that doesn't involve them getting behind the wheel of a car.
Police said DWI arrests this year are up in Irving compared to last year and that there has been 14 fatality crashes in the city this year, 75% of which were caused by drunken drivers.