COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. -- A man who was run over by a boat while swimming off of Naples' Vanderbilt Beach breaks his silence exclusively to WINK News. In February, Sal Pucciarelli was swimming in the Gulf when a boater drove right over him.
Pucciarelli said at the age of 69, he has no hatred to the man accused of injuring him and causing him to have his leg amputated. Pucciarelli is focused on getting better and taking it one day at a time.
"All of a sudden I just felt the bang and that was it. I was only in the water for about a minute," said Pucciarelli.
It's the first time Sal Pucciarelli has talked about February 26. It's the day, nearly five months ago, his life was changed in an instant.
"I remember looking down and seeing my leg off and I said oh I'm gone," said Pucciarelli.
Pucciarelli was swimming in the water off Vanderbilt Beach in Naples when a boat hit him. The propeller of the boat amputated his left leg just below the knee.
"I thought I was going to die. I said I'm dead. This is my last day on this earth," said Pucciarelli.
A week after the accident, Pucciarelli was out of the hospital and back home in Bonita Springs. He's on medication for the pain but tries not to take it if he doesn't have to. Everyday he says is a struggle to learn acceptance.
"Sometimes I don't believe it. This can't. It happens to other people, not me. You go from where I used to go running up and down the house to now I'm here, I'm in a wheelchair," said Pucciarelli.
At young age of 69, Pucciarelli has metals, trophies and newspaper clippings to show off his accomplishments in a variety of sports throughout his life. His children help him keep going to him get through the hardest days.
"This is what I was dealt. I'm going to, just going to get better," said Pucciarelli.
With a passion for life, his plan is to take things one day at a time, counting his blessings and appreciating his family more than ever.
"Tomorrow morning I'll be up. I'll be putting that leg on, I'll be taking Daisy out for a walk," said Pucciarelli.
Pucciarelli said he plans to continue rehab and hopes to be back in the gym working out again soon.
As for the man charged with hitting him, Brandon Ruganis has been charged with reckless operation resulting in a boating accident and violation of a navigation rule.