WOODSTOCK – Dale Finucane was planning on booking a family vacation on the evening of Feb. 7, 2015, thinking of the fun, adventure and relaxation he and his family would have.
Finucane and his wife, Robin Finucane, went to bed that night leading what he considered to be a normal life.
“We will never know normal again,” he said in a packed courtroom of family members and friends more than one year later.
The two received a call about 2 a.m. Feb. 8, 2015, that their son, 23-year-old Brandon Ferreira, had been in a car crash and was in the hospital. Ferreira was in a vehicle that was struck by 25-year-old Ruben Zendejas. Both the driver and the other passenger in the vehicle with Ferreira were treated for injuries days after the crash.
Police have said Zendejas, of Hoffman Estates, failed to stop at a red light at the intersection of Route 176 and Oak Street in Crystal Lake.
He was arrested and charged in 2015 with aggravated driving under the influence and four misdemeanors for driving under the influence of alcohol, failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash, disregarding a traffic light and failure to carry a driver’s license. Additional test results indicated Zendejas tested positive for marijuana, the state’s attorney’s office has said.
Facing one to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated DUI in March, Zendejas was sentenced Friday by McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather to 10 years in prison. Zendejas will receive credit for time served in the McHenry County Jail, and he will be required by state law to serve 85 percent of his sentence.
Prather said this was one of the most “horrendous” bodily injury cases she has heard in her career as a judge.
“This young man here is a result of your actions,” Prather said to Zendejas, gesturing to Ferreira in the courtroom.
Zendejas, when given the opportunity to speak, said he was sorry for what he did and hoped that one day Ferreira’s family would be able to forgive him. Before he was taken into custody by court security officers, Zendejas looked at Ferreira and said, “Sorry, man.”
Ferreira suffered serious injuries from the crash and had to be extricated from the vehicle and taken to Centegra Hospital – McHenry before being transferred to Northwestern Hospital in Chicago. He underwent surgery to repair a broken and dislocated neck and is paralyzed from the waist down with minimal movement in his hands.
Dale Finucane said his son was “hooked up to more equipment than you would think it took to launch a space shuttle.”
“This is not where I ever wanted to be. I wanted to be back at home planning that family vacation I was trying to put together. I thought we would be traveling somewhere soon, and we did, but not where we wanted to,” Dale Finucane said, referring to the long trips to the hospital during rush hour traffic.
After his hospitalization, Ferreira underwent in-patient therapy at the Rehab Institute of Chicago and was released in May 2015. He will continue regular checkups and treatment for the rest of his life, he said.
“I was sentenced to my own personal hell. I was broken and nobody likes broken,” Ferreira said tearfully in court.
Dale Finucane said this has not only affected Ferreira directly, but it has completely changed the rest of their family’s lives. Robin Finucane previously said she had to quit her job as a massage therapist so she could provide around-the-clock care for her son. Dale Finucane was unable to coach his 14-year-old son, Zach Finucane, through his last year of football before he heads off to high school next fall.
Robin Finucane said she and her husband are no longer just parents, but they have also assumed the responsibility of a taxi driver, medical doctor, nurse, medical researcher and several other duties since their son became paralyzed.
She said she hopes Zendejas can one day become rehabilitated and live a law-abiding life.
Financially, Ferreira said the first year of medical expenses can cost as much as $750,000, and about $75,000 every year after.
“He is forever imprisoned in a body that doesn’t work,” said Nancy Gillespie, Ferreira’s grandmother.
A fundraising campaign for injury-related expenses in Ferreira’s honor was established with HelpHOPELive, a nonprofit organization that provides community-based fundraising guidance. Those interested in donating can visit helphopelive.org/campaign/6484.