NBC 4 New York
A police officer crushed by a tree during Sandy is getting a second chance at life. Wayne, N.J. officer Bob Franco tells NBC 4 New York his harrowing tale of survival when a massive tree crushed his patrol car while he was inside. Pei-Sze Cheng reports.
Three weeks after he was crushed inside a patrol car when a giant tree landed on it during Sandy, a New Jersey police officer is bouncing back in unimaginable ways.
"It was God's will," said Wayne, N.J. police officer Bob Franco. "He must have a plan for me because that's the only way I could have made it out of there."
Franco, a 15-year veteran of the Wayne Township Police Department, was inside his cruiser and working during Sandy when the massive tree fell on his vehicle, instantly trapping him.
"The tree had come down and locked my jaw into my chest," he said. "And then there was a wave of numbness that came over my legs and moved upwards. I thought that was it. This was the end of my time here on Earth."
The first officer to respond was Franco's colleague, Capt. Mark McGrath, who helped to cut the door off the car and pry his friend out. McGrath believes the metal partition between the rear and the front of the car saved his life.
"The way the cage behind him and the crow bar held the roof up, it was enough to protect his head," he said.
Franco has undergone surgery on his shattered vertebrae and is now living at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. When he returns home he will need physical therapy. It's not clear when he can return to work but he says he fully intends to do so.
While Franco is at the rehab center, his wife Linda and his three children have been helping him. They feed him, since he doesn't yet have full use of his arms, and read aloud the hundreds of cards he's received, many from perfect strangers.
"I've always pictured my dad as a big guy," said son Peter Franco. "When I imagined him as paralyzed, it was an unbelievable thought."
But Franco is recovering well after surgery, and is focused on healing while he remains thankful.
"We don't know what our future holds," said his wife, Linda Franco. "But we praise God that he's alive. It could have been so much worse."