The community will come together Sunday to help the bus driver who sustained severe, life-altering injuries after a crash that killed a groom on his honeymoon in Greenport in September.
Luis Garnica, 50, of Hampton Bays, was the driver of the eastbound Suffolk County Transit S-92 bus that was crossing the bridge just east of Sage Boulevard when it was struck head-on by driver Jeremiah Grunblatt, after Grunblatt swerved into the eastbound lane, police said. The couple’s SUV then struck the guardrail; Grunblatt died at the scene.
Garnica’s co-workers at Sunrise Bus Company have organized a fundraiser, to be held at the Deep Water Bar & Grille on Front Street in Greenport on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $35 and include a buffet, cash bar, 50/50 and Chinese auction.
Tickets can be purchased from Peggy Beach by calling 516-909-1883 or by calling Irene Kostas at Sunrise Bus at 631-477-1283. Donations can also be given directly to both Beach and Kostas, for deposit into an account for Garnica.
Initially, police described Garnica as having sustained a “severe leg injury,” but friends and colleagues say he has suffered devastating physical impacts.
To that end, both a Go Fund Me page, “Please Help Luis Garnica and Family” and a fundraising effort locally in Greenport have been organized.
The account for Garnica has been set up at the Capital One bank in Greenport; those wishing to donate can go to that location, where the account was opened by Peggy Beach in Luis Garnica’s name, under “Road to Recovery.”
Both Beach and Kostas said the road ahead is long for their friend, whose injuries are extensive.
“He’s a really nice guy. Very respectful. A hard worker. He’s a family man,” Kostas said.
Beach agreed. “He’s one of our best drivers. He has a wife and four small children. The passengers just love him; he’s a great guy.”
Garnica’s injuries were far more serious than have been reported initially, Beach said. “He almost lost his foot,” she said. So far, he’s undergone at least two surgeries and graphs, she added.
“His foot was almost severed,” Beach said. “This is a life-altering situation for him.”
With months of physical therapy ahead, Beach said it’s still unclear what challenges lie before Garnica, and if he’ll be able to keep his foot or return to his career as a professional bus driver. “It’s too early to say,” she said.
Beach said with much attention focused on the tragedy of groom Grunblatt losing his life just three days after his wedding to his bride Keturah — a Go Fund Me page was also created for Grunblatt’s family — Garnica’s plight has remained in the shadows.
Meanwhile, Beach said, Garnica is faced with staggering and mounting medical expenses, as well as the monthly mortgage and utility bills.
That’s why she and Kostas have joined forced to bring the community together to help Garnica as he faces an uncertain future, with an injury that could impact his life forever.
And they’re not alone.
Fellow bus operator Jayson Siegel, who also works for Suffolk County Transit, has set up a Go Fund Me page for his colleague.
Siegel, who said Garnica is a close friend, was doing overtime and covering for another driver when the accident took place on September 30.
All funds raised will go toward helping Garnica meet his expenses, “for a man who serves the public each and every day, and safely transports thousands of individuals to their destinations. . .Your support means the world to me, as I can help my dear friend and partner, or ‘compañero,’ as he would say, because we often work the same days and trips together, and it means a lot to our county’s transit system to serve the public and have him back on the road.”