New Castle News

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January 1, 2013

Top 10 Stories, Number 1: Boy copes with accident, loss of friend

NEW CASTLE — It was a rough Christmas for a 9-year-old Volant boy. But he’s coping, his mom said.

“It’s hard for a 9-year-old to be waiting for Santa but thinking about his little friend,” Ozzy Velez’s mother said.

While playing with toy soldiers outside his grandmother’s home Thanksgiving weekend, Ozzy Velez and his friend Octavius Stone, 7, were hit by an out-of-control pick-up truck. The vehicle climbed the embankment at 941Winslow Ave. and struck the two, tossing them into the air, according to a witness.

Octavius died at the scene. Ozzy was flown to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Virgil E. Coonfare, 67, of 221 W. Moody Ave., the alleged driver of the pick-up truck, is charged with homicide by vehicle while under the influence of a controlled substance, aggravated assault by vehicle, and driving while under the influence of a controlled substance.

He remains free on $25,000 bond. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb. 7.

“Ozzy has his ups and downs,” his mother, Nataly Velez, said. “A 9-year-old doesn’t expect to lose his little friend in this way.”

The recipient of a generous community outpouring, Ozzy and his mother went Christmas shopping.

“We had a crying moment in Walmart,” she said. “He saw a stuffed animal — Spiderman — and said he wanted to get it to give to his friend, Octavius. Then it hit him, Octavius is gone.”

Velez said these moments, brought on by a thought or memory, have become a part of life.

“We’ve taken the attitude, if tears come, let them flow,” said Velez, herself fighting off tears.

As for her son, she said his leg is healing.

However while he apparently escaped internal injuries and broken bones, she explained, Ozzy suffered severe damage to the skin, fatty tissue and muscle of his leg. Velez was told he must have surgery to remove the scabs as his leg heals, so no infection sets in. She was also told skin grafts will be necessary.

“He’s hanging in there,” she said.

Released from Children’s Hospital on a walker, Ozzy now rarely uses it. “Only when his leg gets tired, which can happen,” Velez said.

The family spent Christmas eve with his grandmother, Barbara Brown, on Winslow Avenue. Ozzy gave Christmas gifts to Madison and Cadence, the little sisters of his friend Octavius, then went home to wait for Santa.

Octavius’ mother, Cynthia Clark Jones “is having a bittersweet Christmas,” Velez said. “She said she’s OK. We’ve had such wonderful community support and she still has her little girls, but to have lost her son like that is awful. I pray for her, but I can’t imagine what she’s going through.”

As for her family, Velez said, moods swing up and down.

“Sometimes he wants to talk about his upcoming surgery or what happened,” she said of Ozzy. “He asks questions I have no answers to. I refer him to our pastor or my mother. Little children should not have to think about things like that.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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