Newburgh Heights father struggling to get back on his feet after car totaled by driver on heroin

Updated: Apr. 12, 2021 at 10:58 PM EDT
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NEWBURGH HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - Last month, Branden Nehez bought a car in full. Not only was it a safe car for his family, but he relied on it for his job at the pizza shop down the road from his home in Newburgh Heights.

“I’m gonna take a loss on this,” Nehez said. “It was just such an inconvenience. I had to take time off work, now I’m stuck making car payments, I had to go into bill money.”

On April 5th at around 10 A.M. Nehez, his girlfriend and their 5-month-old son were getting ready to go visit his sister.

“I put him in the car seat set him by the front door and I was like, ‘I’ll be right back I have to go to the bathroom real quick’, get out the bathroom and that’s when it happened. She would’ve been behind the car by the trunk putting his bags in the trunk,” said Nehez. “I would’ve been putting him in the car seat, so I would’ve got dragged with the car. She probably would’ve got ran over.”

When Nehez came out of the bathroom, he heard a loud boom. A neighbor’s ring doorbell camera captured the crash. You can see a car come down Beta Avenue and crash into Nehez’s car before flipping over.

“There’s a car flipped in my front yard, and my car was smashed into. Turns out it’s 10 o’clock in the morning — the lady admitted that she was on drugs at the time of the accident,” Nehez said.

Newburgh Heights Police say the driver admitted she had shot up heroin earlier that morning. She told police she thought she had blacked out and that is why she crashed.

According to recent numbers, Cuyahoga County has seen more people using drugs like opioids this year. The Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga county says in 2020 calls to their addiction hotline increased by nearly 15%.

In March, Cuyahoga County had 69 suspected overdose deaths. There were 13 overdose deaths within the first five days of April and in the past week, there have been at least eight overdoses in the city of Cleveland alone.

“I’m just trying to get the story out there and how dangerous it is to operate a vehicle while on that stuff,” the father said.

Nehez says so far, the driver’s insurance company has not cooperated. Police say the driver has since started treatment.

“More than lucky, I feel like someone up there was looking out for me. I don’t know what I would’ve done if my kid was in the car at the time,” Nehez said. “I don’t even think he would’ve been safely buckled in yet because that’s about the time that it happened.”

Police cited the driver for an OVI and failure to control a vehicle. She is due in court on April 21st.

Anyone using or recovering from opioid addiction can contact project DAWN for information at 216-778-5677.

The Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County provides a 24-hour crisis line at 216-623-6888.

Nehez started a fundraiser to help him catch up on money he’s lost from the damage to his car and being out of work.

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