20 September 2021

Family details pain after boy loses leg, spends month in coma after horrific car crash

| Albert McKnight
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Joshua Alessandro Nabytowicz-Cannizzaro

Joshua Alessandro Nabytowicz-Cannizzaro, 22, leaves the ACT Courts on Wednesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

It was almost a month before a teenaged boy opened his eyes after losing his leg in a car crash and going into a coma.

On Wednesday (15 September), the ACT Magistrates Court heard the tragedy continued after the crash, as fat from his thigh bone ended up in his brain resulting in a traumatic brain injury, and he could barely move when he woke up.

“I was trapped in my own body,” the boy told the court.

“I couldn’t speak. I felt like I was the main character from a horror movie.”

It was dark, raining and Joshua Alessandro Nabytowicz-Cannizzaro, then 20, had alcohol and methamphetamine in his system when he crashed on Baldwin Drive in Kaleen early on the morning of 9 May 2020.

He had swerved to avoid what the court heard was “something furry”, lost control of his Ford Falcon and smashed into a metal guard rail before his car rolled and came to rest on its roof.

His young victim, who was a passenger in the car, said he had to have his leg partially amputated at the scene. He fell into a 24-day coma after surgery and had post-traumatic amnesia, which meant he had to learn how to do everything again, from eating and drinking to going to the toilet by himself.

He said he had planned to run his own bar and become a mixologist, but that was now out of reach due to the crash, as were many other things.

READ ALSO Father’s split-second mistake leaves son with life-long injuries

I will ask and have asked many times, ‘how will I propose to my future wife?’.

“I also always wonder who would love a guy who’s in a wheelchair most of the time and his mode of transport is a wheelchair?”

He said he had difficulties and pain when it came to walking with a prosthetic.

I was fed up and frustrated screaming, ‘I just want my old leg back’,” he said.

The boy’s father told the court surgeons were “baffled” about the amount of fat from his son’s thigh bone that had gone into his brain.

Because his leg had been so severely damaged, fatty embolisms travelled from the limb to his brain, called fat embolisation syndrome.

The father said his son woke from his coma to the surprise of everyone but would lie motionless with pain constantly on his face, which the boy’s mother also witnessed.

“I could tell from his facial expressions that he was screaming,” she wrote for a statement read to the court.

READ ALSO Teen who may have suffered brain injury in fatal crash won’t return to court until 2022

The father said the stress from the situation became too much, and he and his wife separated. He also said his son had changed since the crash.

“It was scary at times. He was so unpredictable,” he said.

“I have lost a part of my son that nothing will ever replace.”

Defence barrister Katrina Musgrove from Key Chambers said before the crash, Mr Nabytowicz-Cannizzaro was not speeding, was not “showing off”, only three people were in his car and there was no evidence there were other drivers on the road.

Mr Nabytowicz-Cannizzaro, 22, from Crestwood in NSW, wrote a letter apologising to his victim and their family.

READ ALSO Friend lying in Commodore tray thrown out after drunk driver crashes ute

“I know this has changed all our lives and I regret getting in the car with all my heart,” he said.

“There is not one day that I don’t think about that awful night.”

The steel fixer pleaded guilty to a charge of culpable driving causing grievous bodily harm.

On Thursday (16 September), Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walked accepted his remorse was “deep and genuine”, but said the impact of his actions on his victim and their family was “profound and permanent”.

She sentenced him to two years’ jail, with six months to be served behind bars and the remainder suspended for a three-year good behaviour order.

“I accept that you’re sorry for what you’ve done and I’m sure you understand the harm that you caused,” she told him.

“There’s a penalty to be paid for that harm and it’s a penalty that’s about to commence today.”

He was also disqualified from driving for 12 months.

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