SAN ANTONIO — Family members say 79-year-old Rosa Gomez is a big-hearted woman who has always put others first and they hope now that she needs help, family and friends will respond to her plight.
Gomez nearly died early Thursday when a speeding vehicle failed to make a turn and crashed all the way into her sturdy 1930s wood-framed home on Martin Luther King Drive, just east of St. Philip’s College.
The force of the explosive collision pushed Gomez through the home until she was enveloped in a mattress and trapped by the wrecked Nissan Murano.
From the first call for help until firefighters announced they had freed the woman, 40 long minutes had elapsed.
It was a heart wrenching wait for family members who were standing by outside the home, praying for her survival.
Granddaughter Josie Garza said the extended family had been sitting around the kitchen table, telling stories and laughing until just a few minutes before the house exploded.
Garza said "We all went to our rooms ready to lay down and I close my door and I hear like a big old boom like an explosion, the house shaking and all I do is say what happened and I run to the front. I can't get to my grandma's room."
“I heard her screaming for help! ‘Help me! Help me!’ But I couldn’t find her!” Garza said.
Garza said when Gomez made it to the hospital, the news was bleak.
"She has two broken hands. Two broken feet. Broken ribs. I just want to know whoever did this, the guy that ran away and did this to my grandma, please turn yourself in!" Garza said.
Garza said what makes the situation worse is the injustice. She said Gomez is the type of woman who has always put others first.
“My grandma has a heart of gold and would give her last penny to anybody,” Garza said.
Granddaughter Rachel Shrewseury agrees.
“She’s worried about her house. She wants to come home and clean up the debris. She’s worried how everyone else is doing,” Shrewseury said, adding “If this was the other way around, my grandmother would have tried to help him.”
Shrewseury said being trapped for an extended time was very hard on her grandmother, "The last thing she told me was that she was giving up already. She didn't think she was going to make it. She was taking her last breath. She didn't know that all of us were out here just waiting for them to pull her out."
Family members said they have been told to expect at least six months of rehabilitation is in the future for Gomez, who until now had been the primary caretaker for an adult disabled daughter.
The family said they tried to stop the driver when he ran away from the crash but he threatened them.
Police said the man left his injured passenger behind, so they know who they are looking for.
"I just hope that he turns himself in before the cops go and get him. Take some responsibility for what he did. We've got to take responsibility for something we didn't do," Shrewseury said.
Police said the driver has not been arrested yet, but when they are able to locate him, he will face a charge of failure to stop and render aid with serious bodily injury.
The fate of the heavily damaged house hangs in the balance.
An inspector from the city’s Code Compliance division was at the home mid-day Thursday, taking pictures and preparing a recommendation about whether or not the city will pursue an emergency demolition order.
Facing an uncertain future, family members and friends jumped into action to restore as much order as they could muster. With pickup trucks lined up to haul away debris, they raced through the afternoon trying to save and secure what they can.
One relative said they plan to take shifts, remaining on guard throughout the nighttime hours so that thieves won’t prey upon Gomez while she is hospitalized.
The family said they are committed to doing whatever it takes to salvage what they can because it is the very least Gomez deserves.
They said more than anything, they would be grateful for the prayers of the city on behalf of a woman who has worked and sacrificed on behalf of so many people for so many years.