Athens Review, Athens, Texas

September 2, 2006

Eustace crash victim’s condition continues to improve

By Janice Arnsdorff

Andrew Whiddon is getting better every day.

The 18-year-old Eustace High School senior was badly injured in an auto accident Aug. 11 on Double Bridge Road in Payne Springs. His condition continues to improve at East Texas Medical Center Tyler. He was moved Tuesday from ICU to a private room, and is expected to soon be in a rehabilitation center.

“He’s out of the coma now and stable,” his father, James, said Tuesday. “He can have visitors now.”

Whiddon suffered severe head and facial injuries, a broken left leg and broken right ankle. He was taken off a respirator last Sunday, and has undergone numerous surgeries to repair the injuries to his face and leg.

“His eyes are open and he’s responding to commands, like nodding his head, shrugging his shoulders, and holding up one finger for ‘yes’ and two fingers for ‘no’,” his father said. “He’s moving his mouth but can’t talk yet. He’ll need some rehab.”

The elder Whiddon credits his son’s friend and a passenger in the vehicle, Chaz Cardenas, 17, for saving Andrew’s life.

“We give special thanks to Chaz,” James said. “Without him getting Andrew out, we don’t think he would have made it. Chaz did a real good job acting like he did getting Andrew out of the van. It was all Chaz, even though he was in shock and everything, calling everybody he could.”

After the crash, Cardenas, a Eustace High School senior, helped another passenger out of the vehicle, 21-year-old James Lashley, who suffered a broken shoulder and collar bone. Cardenas was not seriously hurt.

Cardenas then turned his attention to Whiddon, who appeared to be choking on his own blood. He pulled him from the van and laid him on the ground, on his side, so that he could breathe more easily.

The driver of the van, John “Judo” Taylor, 18, a 2006 graduate of Eustace High School, was pinned in the wreckage. Cardenas said he felt for a pulse in his neck and found none. Taylor was pronounced dead at the scene.

Andrew’s family and friends stand by him as he recovers, and celebrate each milestone.

His father said Tuesday, “We just want him to talk here before long and ask for a cheeseburger or something.”