TAMPA — Little Danaie was crying in her car seat. The 4-month-old girl must be hungry, her mother thought. So she reached back, unbuckled her and started breast-feeding as her boyfriend drove to Tampa on Friday.
That's when a garbage truck T-boned the passenger side of the green Nissan coupe. The child flew through an open window. She landed in the middle of a busy Columbus Drive intersection.
And she's doing just fine.
The family expects her to be released from the hospital today, said Marbelia Hernandez, 37, the mother's aunt.
"I believe it's a miracle," she said.
She recounted the accident on Saturday, pieced together from details her niece, Maira Hernandez, gave her.
She insists that Maira Hernandez, 23, and her boyfriend, Vincente Rodriguez, 18, the child's father, are good parents. They always buckle the infant in her safety seat, she said.
"It was just bad timing," she said.
Police say Rodriguez ran a red light as he traveled on E Columbus Drive near the Interstate 4 eastbound off-ramp. A car swerved to avoid him, but a garbage truck collided with the car.
Relatives are relieved the baby is okay. She didn't even suffer any broken bones, Marbelia Hernandez said. Police are still determining how far she flew during the accident.
Maira Hernandez suffered the worst injuries. She has several broken bones, including a broken pelvis, her aunt said.
Her 7-year-old son, Eddie Gomez, who was sitting in the back seat, suffered minor bumps and bruises.
Police said Eddie was not wearing a seat belt, but Marbelia Hernandez said that he had been wearing one — he just took it off after the accident so he could get out of the car, she said.
Although the family is happy about the infant's miraculous landing, they're worried about Rodriguez. He remains in jail, charged with driving without a valid driver's license and negligent operation of a motor vehicle resulting in serious bodily injury.
They're afraid he's going to be deported to Mexico. He's an undocumented immigrant, police said, and they contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"We really would not like for him to be deported because she (Danaie) needs her dad," Marbelia Hernandez said.
Maira Hernandez has a valid Florida identification, police said. Her aunt said she was born in Texas and met Rodriguez in Tampa.
They live together in Mango and were hoping to get married. Maira Hernandez was taking classes to become a nurse's aide, and they were on their way to Tampa to look for jobs when the accident happened, she said.
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2443.