BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A double-amputee was left with no way to get inside his home after a car destroyed the ramp out in front of it.
Heliberto Sanchez lives in a home on Clinton Street in Buffalo. Three months ago, the wheelchair-bound man purchased and installed a metal wheelchair ramp on his home that cost $8,000. Saturday afternoon, his access to the outside world was destroyed in an instant when a driver slammed into it as well as a neighboring home.
Sanchez was asleep at the time of the crash. He awoke to a sound he describes as an explosion, and then his nephew began shouting that a car had destroyed his wheelchair ramp.
"As you can tell, he was not lying," Sanchez said.
The ramp after the crash looked more like a twisted pile of metal. And Sanchez, with no money to fix it, was left with no access to his own home.
"My independence was just taken away from me, at least getting inside and outside my house," Sanchez lamented. "It's heartbreaking."
But Sanchez added that he was more concerned about the driver.
"As long as the driver to the car is okay, the ramp can be replaced. But I can't replace it by myself."
Mark DePriest lives next door to Sanchez's home and his porch was damaged in the crash. He and his wife were enjoying their normal Saturday routine when the accident happened.
"All of a sudden we heard this big crash. We thought it was an accident on the corner," DePriest said.
He looked at the window, turned to his wife and said, "There's a car on our front porch!"
Though DePriest has some damage that will need fixing, he feels bad for his neighbor, whose wheelchair ramp was destroyed.
"It's terrible," he said. "From what I heard, the driver blacked out, turned the wheel and crashed into the house. Luckily we weren't on the porch when it happened."
But incredibly, the City of Good Neighbors has already lived up to its moniker.
Brian Leistner of Brijo Construction was traveling by and saw the damage caused by the accident. Without prompting, Leistner stopped and volunteered to build Sanchez a temporary replacement for free so the home will be accessible again.
"I saw him throw his hands up in the air; he looked all distressed, so I thought I'd stop and help him out," Leistner said.
Leistner called up some friends and got out his tools. He cut the existing ramp, bent some of the metal back into place and braced it so that Sanchez will at the very least have temporary access to his home.
"It's a blessing," said Sanchez. "A total stranger stopped, offered to help... greatly appreciated. I guess I'm seeing the positive of the people in Western New York."
Some of the railings aren't salvageable, however. A new, permanent ramp will have to be built eventually. At first, Sanchez wasn't sure how he was going to make that happen, since he doesn't have thousands to spend.
Saturday night, however, another Good Samaritan stepped forward to help. The owner of the local AMRAMP franchise contacted News 4, and said he'd like to reach out and make sure Sanchez gets the components necessary to repair the ramp, for good.
Buffalo Police say the 58-year-old male driver of the vehicle appears to have suffered some type of medical issue prior to the crash. The driver and his passenger were taken to ECMC for treatment.
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