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Man recalls horrific plunge off Wake County bridge

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Joseph De La Riva survived a crash that killed a coworker (WTVD)

Joseph De La Riva, 24, is recovering at WakeMed in Raleigh after a horrific accident.

Last Thursday, the landscaping truck he was riding in fell below an overpass on the Triangle Expressway just west of Cary.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol says the truck ran into the median and hit a bridge railing - bursting into flames. It then plunged down a rocky embankment and landed in a shallow creek.

Five people were in that truck.

Andrew Johnstone, 60, of Durham, was pronounced dead at the scene.

De La Riva was trapped in the truck in the muddy water with Johnstone's body pressed on him. De La Riva had to be cut out of the vehicle and hoisted to safety.

"At first I thought the thing on top of me was just a duffle bag but it turned out to be the fifth passenger and he was dead," De La Riva said. "I just couldn't do nothing but just sit there, him lying on top of me."

He says he almost lost hope until a witness went by his side and stayed with him until first responders arrived.

"The first thought that came to my mind is 'What if this is the end?' until that guy," he said - adding that a man stuck his head through the back window, saying "Just start talking to me, said 'Slow your breathing. I'm here for you. Rescue's on the way. I won't leave your side.' He's a life saver because he did save my life," De La Riva said, tears streaming down his face.

The driver of the truck - 22-year-old Gerardo Daniel Pacheco - has been charged with misdemeanor death by a motor vehicle.

De La Riva says he holds no resentment towards the driver. He's just happy he's alive.

He suffered seven broken ribs, a collapsed left shoulder, and a punctured lung.

"There's still a chance I will walk again," De La Riva said. "I will move it again but it will take time."

His family can't thank that mystery man enough for giving Joseph hope.

"Extremely thankful and blessed that he's still here with us," his brother, James De La Riva said.

Joseph and his family are hoping to find that person that helped save his life.

If you know who he is, contact Gloria Rodriguez at her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GloriaRodriguezWTVD.

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