A seriously injured father of three is being hailed as a hero after he pushed his pregnant wife from the path of a speeding truck.
Aaron Gutierrez and his family had just finished celebrating his 6-year-old son’s birthday at a local pizzeria in Fresno, California, when they hopped on a bus to return home on the night of January 5. The bus dropped them off just a short walk away, and as Gutierrez, his mother, pregnant wife and the couple’s two other children talked about their fun night during their stroll, a speeding blue Toyota Tacoma ran a red light and spun out of control—right towards Gutierrez and his loved ones.
Recognizing the immediate danger they were in, Gutierrez took action and shoved his wife out of the truck’s path as he carried their 1-year-old son in his arms.
“I heard a big bang, I looked over my shoulder and I saw the truck flying towards us, I looked at my wife, and it was heading right towards her direction,” Gutierrez, 31, tells PEOPLE. “I knew I was going to get hit, and I put my son as high as I could, and I got hit. Luckily enough, I played football for so many years so I was able to cuddle my son into my hands when I flew into the building. After that, I blacked out.”
When Gutierrez awoke, he heard his then-7-year-old daughter screaming, “Mommy is dead!” He then saw both his wife and mother sprawled out on the asphalt.
“I tried to stand so I could go beat the kid up, to be honest—he almost killed my kids,” he says. “But that’s when I realized my injuries and that my leg was broken.”
His wife was spared any major injuries to herself or her unborn baby, while Gutierrez’s mother was sent to the ICU after she suffered a bleeding brain and a broken back. Gutierrez himself suffered a broken shoulder along with his injured leg, but the couple’s three children were unharmed during the incident.
Lt. Mark Hudson of the Fresno Police Department tells PEOPLE the 19-year-old driver was found at fault in the collision. This could lead to a later citation pending a review of the case. The driver wasn’t under the influence of any substances, he adds.
According to ABC 30, Fresno has seen an uptick in vehicles hitting pedestrians over the last year. Fatal crashes involving pedestrians were up 54 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year.
Today, Guiterrez is back home recovering but is largely confined to a walker around the house or a wheelchair when the family goes out. His mother is still in the hospital, and while she is expected to be released soon, they are unsure of the extent of her lasting injuries. Doctors cannot say if she’ll be able to work, or walk, again.
“She can’t walk at the moment, she has a lot of brain injuries, too,” Guiterrez says. “Both sides of her brain were bleeding, including the side that controls her movement. Sometimes, because of the damage, she acts like a little kid.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family during their recovery process, and it has since raised $1,900 of its initial $20,000 goal. Yet, the injuries Gutierrez’s sustained that night only add to the health problems he was already preparing to face: He was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer and is expected to start chemotherapy in the coming weeks.
But Guiterrez is doing his best to hold on to the positives that have come from the tragedy. He has regularly held multiple jobs that have kept him from home, and now he is able to spend more time with his family as he recovers.
“At first, I had a lot of anger. I was very angry at this kid, he just changed everybody’s lives,” Gutierrez says. “I was really, really mad. But our family is way closer and we have a better bond now. I get to spend more time with my kids and wife since I was always on the road before. So in that way, it was blessing in disguise.”