Mario Basantes will never forget waking up on the ground, unsure of where he was. As he opened his eyes, he saw his wife, Amy, looking panicked. Next to her stood a woman he didn’t know, praying.
“It took a minute, then I realized she was praying for me.
“That first moment felt like a warm sensation from my head down, and then numbness,” recalled the Yonkers resident, 38. “I was so afraid I was going to die.”
Minutes earlier he had been cheering on costumed revelers in the Endymion parade in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood. Out of nowhere, a gray pickup traveling in the lane opposite the parade route plowed on to the median and into the crowd.
Thirty-two people were struck by drunk driver Neilson Rizzuto, resulting in punctured lungs, broken bones and other injuries. Mario, who was run over by the truck’s tires, was hurt the worst: two broken ribs, a broken pelvis, a lacerated liver, a collapsed bladder and a head hematoma. His right leg was crushed.
Amy remembered how “I couldn’t see him breathing. It was the scariest moment.” (Amazingly, she escaped injury after having walked 10 feet away to snap a photo.)
Within hours, Mario, an avid horse rider, was in surgery. Because of the nerve damage to his leg, doctors could not say whether he would be able to walk on it again. He spent three days in ICU, followed by a month in the surgical ward and a week in rehab. He’s been stuck in New Orleans ever since.
“It was a weekend trip. We [aren’t] supposed to be here,” said Mario, a night manager at Land & Sea restaurant in The Bronx.
Amy had surprised her husband with a road trip to Mardi Gras for his 38th birthday. They packed in as many parades as possible, which Mario described as “perfect. People just want to have fun. Nobody’s looking for trouble.” The Feb. 25 parade was supposed to be the…