PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. - "I don't know how I'm alive. My car was just completely totaled,” Ricky Melendez said in disbelief the day after he got into a crash that nearly took his life. Melendez was hit by four teens in a stolen ford explorer going 100 miles per hour Sunday.
Melendez’s only explanation: guardian angels looking out for him. A dangerous move by teens broke his collarbone, fractured his tibia, gave him a hematoma in his stomach and broke his ankle, but he knows it could have been much worse.
Melendez was on his way to work at Sprouts Grocery Store in Palm Harbor Sunday morning. He went through a green light at Tampa Road and US 19 when, “out of nowhere a car ran a red light and smashed into me,” Melendez finished.
“It was one of the scariest moments of my life,” the 29-year-old said brushing back tears.
Four teens in a stolen ford explorer turned off their headlights as they bolted down Tampa Road. Melendez could have never seen them coming. Now, he’s still shaken by the sound he heard in that moment.
"I know one thing I won't forget is how loud that collision was. It was scary,” he added.
Melendez’s car spun out and all he remembers is taking a breath.
"I took a big deep breathe and I was just happy I could do that. It was probably the best deep breath I've ever taken in my life,” Melendez said with a slight chuckle.
Paramedics told Melendez if the teens hit him just a few inches more to the left, he wouldn’t have made it.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has had enough with this dangerous crime, putting all of us in danger. The 6 teens involved in the triple fatal crash and corresponding car thefts had nearly 130 arrests between them. The teens are only between 14-18 years old.
“The problem is these kids could care less about the crimes they’re committing and they have no concern about the juvenile justice system,” Gualtieri explained, “Nothing will change until penalties get more severe for teens stealing and crashing cars.”
The teens, he added, are putting all of us just like Melendez in dangerous situations.
In the first 6 months of this year, 1,124 cars were stolen in Pinellas County. That’s 6 cars a day!
Melendez's family set up a GoFundMe account to help with his medical expenses. Since the 29-year-old had just started a new job, his health benefits had not kicked in.