NEW CASTLE —
A recent tragedy at times still envelops young Ozzy Velez in sadness and nightmares.
But the Nov. 25 accident that snuffed out the life of his best friend, 7-year-old Octavius Stone, and almost claimed his own life has shown him a community’s generosity.
The 9-year-old Volant boy has a bandaged upper leg, wears a brace and uses a walker so he doesn’t strain stitches in his knee and groin areas.
A six-inch-round black scab on his thigh is one of the painful abrasions he suffered when 66-year-old Virgil Coonfare of 920 Beckford St. drove his three-quarter-ton pickup truck into a yard where the two boys were playing on Winslow Avenue that Sunday afternoon.
The truck struck both boys, killing Octavius and sending Ozzy airborne. A tire mark imprinted on his stomach, but he suffered no broken bones or internal injuries.
Ozzy lives in a mobile home with his mother, Nataly, on Georgetown Road. After a night of bad dreams Tuesday, he stayed home from school and slept on their couch with his chihuahua, Shorty, surrounded by balloons, teddy bears and gifts from his classmates and teacher at New Wilmington Elementary School, neighbors and friends.
His white “Octavius Stone Memorial Walk” T-shirt was from a vigil held in his friend’s memory.
A drive at Cascade Park last night benefited the Velez family.
Ozzy talked about being a Notre Dame fan and wanting to play on the Fighting Irish football team someday. He spoke of the accident, saying he’s feeling better but has pent-up energy from nurturing his injuries.
And overall, he feels sad, he said.
“We were walking down the steps to go outside and Octavius was by my left side,” he said, giving his account of the tragedy.
Octavius was munching on cheese puffs.
“We were going to go over by my uncle’s truck,” Ozzy said, when Coonfare’s truck went up the embankment and hit them.
“It scooped us up and threw us in the air. Then the whole neighborhood came over, from down the street, up the street and from a few miles,” Ozzy said of people who ran to help. He remembers blacking out twice.
According to Ozzy’s mother, his 11-year-old cousin, Connor Brown, called 911 and stayed with Ozzy, encouraging him to stay calm while others tended to Octavius.
“He kept saying, ‘Don’t move Ozzy,’” Velez said, adding, “I saw Conner after that bury his head in his mother’s chest and start to cry.”
Ozzy remembers being in the helicopter and looking out to see the hills of Pittsburgh. He was on a stretcher, the quarters were close and his mother and paramedics were with him.
While he was being treated at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh, he heard on a television newscast that his friend had died.
“We weren’t going to tell him until morning,” his grandmother, Barbara Brown, said. “He had nightmares all night and thought it was a dream.”