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Backpack credited with saving student's life (with video)
If not for the backpack he was wearing, Joseph Vasquez, who was hit by a car on Monday at the entrance to the parking lot at Kofa High School, could have been more seriously injured.
Officer Clint Norred, spokesman for the Yuma Police Department, said he spoke with the officer who investigated the accident and said that the backpack provided a cushion between the student and the asphalt.
"The officer believes Vasquez would have sustained more serious injury had he not been wearing that backpack," Norred said. "It took the brunt of the road rash and it gave him a few seconds to reposition himself so the vehicle didn't run over a more vital area of his body."
"It's pretty scratched up and has several holes in it," said Vasquez's mother, Davina Arteaga. "But it stayed on him the entire time and didn't release."
Arteaga added that police also told her that her son had been dragged underneath the car for about 20 feet before it stopped.
"The zippers on the backpack dug into the asphalt of the parking lot, so they were able to measure the distance," Arteaga said. "The police also said had he not been wearing the backpack, he could have been killed."
Vasquez was wearing a skateboarder's backpack given to him by his aunt, who bought it in California for around $70 about a year and a half ago.
According to YPD, a Kofa staff member entering the parking lot from Avenue A had stopped for a yield sign for traffic coming from 32nd Street.
At the same time, Vasquez was riding a skateboard down the hill into the parking lot, police said.
Vasquez, 16, lost control of the skateboard and fell in front of the car when it was pulling up into the parking lot, police said. The motorist did not see Vasquez fall and ran over him before coming to a stop. Witnesses tried to warn the driver but were unsuccessful.
After being dragged, Vasquez was pinned under the car for several minutes until a bystander was able to raise the car with a jack to free him.
"We still don't know how he was able to get the jack underneath the car because of how low it is," said Arteaga, who considers what happened that day nothing more than an accident.
The only injuries Vasquez sustained were a cut on his left knee that required 10 stitches and a road rash on his right leg. He was taken to Yuma Regional Medical Center, where he was kept under observation until he was released on Tuesday.
"We didn't know yet how seriously injured he could be and he is laying there in a hospital bed worrying about his backpack because it had his homework in it," Arteaga said. "He was also worried about not having perfect attendance anymore because he wanted to win the free car that is given away at the end of each school year."
Arteaga said her son was released from the hospital Tuesday and wanted to return to school Wednesday, but she wouldn't let him. "I had to make him stay home a few days to recuperate."
"Something like this really doesn't bother me," Vazquez said. "I just wanted to get back to school and have everything back to normal. School, work and family are the most important things to me right now."
In addition to being a junior at Kofa , Vasquez works part-time at a McDonald's restaurant.
"He deposits every check he gets into the bank," Arteaga said. "He even gave us a debit card for his account in case we ever needed it."
Vasquez said he will continue riding his skateboard, but only in parks now.
He said the backpack is still in good condition and he plans to continue using it.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.