FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Joey Yannucci is no longer in a coma, but still has a tough road ahead of him, his father says.
“We’re taking it day by day,” said Anthony Yannucci, who expects his son to be transferred to a rehabilitation facility in Broward County once his condition improves. “It’s extremely, extremely trying and extremely emotional.”
Joey, 11, was critically injured in a deadly school bus crash last month in St. Lucie County that killed one child and injured more than a dozen others. Everyone but Joey has been released from area hospitals.
Since the March 26 accident, Joey, a fifth-grade student at Frances K. Sweet Elementary School, has been in the intensive care unit at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he was in a medically induced coma for nearly three weeks.
The top of Joey’s skull was removed to ease brain swelling and was placed inside his son’s hip for incubation, his father said.
Yannucci, who lives in Port St. Lucie, said the crash has been life-altering for him and his wife, Barbara, who have kept a vigil at their son’s bedside, as well as Joey’s younger brother, Jacob, 10, who also was in the crash but not injured.
Yannucci said doctors can’t give him a definite prognosis for Joey.
“There’s no end in sight right now,” said Yannucci, who added his son is beginning to regain limited speech. “We are certainly not out of the woods yet. There is definitely going to be a lot of rehab in the future.”
Jacob, a fourth-grade student at F.K. Sweet, is still reeling from the death of his best friend, Aaron Beauchamp, 9, who died in the accident, Yannucci said.
The incident also has touched the community. More than 1,500 people attended a memorial service for Aaron at Fort Pierce High School on March 28.
The bus, which had been traveling west on Okeechobee Road, was struck by an eastbound semitrailer hauling sod after the bus turned left in front of it at Midway Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol
Eleven students and the driver were taken to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center Heart Institute in Fort Pierce. One student was taken to St. Lucie Medical Center in Port St. Lucie. Four students were flown to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. Thirteen students were uninjured.
The accident remains under investigation by local, state and federal authorities and no charges have been filed.
Yannucci said the outpouring of community support for Joey and his family has been great.
“We can’t express how appreciative and thankful we are for the love, support and prayers,” Yannucci said. “It’s amazing how mankind has pulled together for this little boy of mine.”
Next week, two fundraisers are scheduled to help the Yannucci family with expenses.
The Van Duzer Foundation is conducting one April 25 and the Sign With Me Child Development Center Inc., where Joey’s mother is a teacher, will have one April 28.
“This family is left to deal with a lot,” said Scott Van Duzer, head of the foundation. “That’s why we’re so passionate about raising money. If you’re down there taking care of your child, you still have to pay rent and bills. Something’s got to give.”
JOEY YANNUCCI BENEFITS
What: Van Duzer Foundation
When: 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. April 25
Where: Big Apple Pizza, 2311 S. 35th St. in Fort Pierce
Information or to donate online: visit thevanduzerfoundation.org
What: Family Fun Day
When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 28. Registration for the poker tournament begins at 6 p.m.
Tickets: $50 donation (paid in advance) for poker tournament. There will also be a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction.
Where: Sign with Me Child Development Center, 5300 Melville Road in Fort Pierce
Donations: Can be mailed to Sign With Me Child Development Center, Inc. 10635 Pine Needle Drive, Fort Pierce, FL 34945. Checks should be made payable to: Sign With Me Child Development Center, Inc.