PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — The woman in charge of a local animal rescue had strangers come to her rescue when she was involved in a car crash during Hurricane Nicole.
It happened late on Nov. 9 night on Interstate 95 as she was heading home from taking a dog to the emergency vet.
Vickie Virzi's life revolves around rescues.
"It doesn't matter how difficult they are, for somebody out there, that's their perfect dog," Virzi said.
Virzi is president of Blessed Paws Animal Rescue in Palm Beach County, which started in 2017 and has adopted out more than 1,000 pets.
But Virzi was the one who needed saving after a terrifying car crash in the middle of Hurricane Nicole.
Four-pound Andreas showed signs of a seizure, so Virzi rushed the dog to the emergency vet.
"There's no way I'm going to let my foster parent go through a traumatic situation without me there because, bottom line, it's my responsibility. So there was no way I could not go," Virzi said.
But on Virzi's rainy drive back home on I-95, an unknown driver hit her near Hypoluxo Road.
"I felt like I was in a fishbowl and I could see everything in the car in slow motion spinning around me," Virzi said. "And then when I hit off road, I started spinning and flipping and that’s when I was so terrified."
A handful of workers coming from Publix, Virzi was told, saved her life.
"They stopped. A whole bunch of them grabbed my car and they flipped it back over on its tires and pried it open so I could get out of the car. Because I was shaking and screaming," Virzi said.
Virzi had glass in her eyes, her mouth, and lots of bruising.
"It is a blessing I walked out of that accident without any broken bones," Virzi said.
The biggest loss now is her car, a necessity for her rescue work.
"This is where I want to spend my money. Not to pay for a car because someone decided to drive recklessly on 95," Virzi said.
Virzi said, for now, friends are coming to her rescue, letting her borrow their cars. But she needs her own to get back to what she loves.
"I ave a lot of people who wanted to help me and it made me feel real good to know that I had a support system like that," Virzi said.
Virzi hates to think what could have happened if that little puppy was heading home with her.
"The way the back windshield is gone and the back of the car is smashed up, that’s where her crate would have been," Virzi said.
Virzi wants the driver held responsible and to focus the recues on the dogs.
Friends started a GoFundMe account for Virzi. She said that money will pay the emergency vet bill and then go toward a new car. To donate, click here.
The Florida Highway Patrol has not identified the driver who hit her, but said a White Chevy Cruz was involved.
Virzi also said she would love to meet the witnesses who helped her.