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‘You’re a miracle:’ South Florida man walking and talking after being critically injured in 65 mph crash with 18-wheeler

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Four and a half months ago, Zach Corliss was a broken man.

The 22-year-old Parkland resident was returning home from a visit to St. Petersburg on Aug. 28 when he was part of a multi-car collision with an 18-wheeler at 65 miles per hour. He wasn’t at fault in the crash, police said.

Corliss was extracted from his car and flown to a hospital, but he sustained such severe brain and spinal cord injuries doctors thought he might never walk or talk.

He had four broken bones. He broke his neck. His seatbelt cut into his midsection “like a knife,” according to his mother, Debby Corliss-Cohn, damaging his liver and intestines.

His jaw was broken so badly that his mother, a dentist for 25 years, said she’d never seen anything comparable.

“I was handed a pretty rough card,” he said.

Zach Corliss, a 22-year-old Parkland resident, thanks Memorial Regional Hospital Hollywood nurse Tracy Meltzer along with the hospital's emergency and trauma care teams that saved his life after he was in a multi-car accident involving an 18-wheeler in August.

Zach Corliss, a 22-year-old Parkland resident, thanks Memorial Regional Hospital Hollywood nurse Tracy Meltzer along with the hospital’s emergency and trauma care teams that saved his life after he was in a multi-car accident involving an 18-wheeler in August. (Susan Stocker / South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Yet on Thursday, Corliss walked out of his parents’ car and greeted the doctors and nurses who were responsible for his care at Hollywood Memorial Regional Hospital.

“You’re a miracle,” nurse Tracy Meltzer said to Corliss as the two embraced.

That sentiment was shared by each of the healthcare professionals who helped Corliss. He was treated at three hospitals: Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers; Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in brain and spinal cord injuries; and Hollywood Memorial Regional.

Dr. Andrew Rosenthal, Memorial Healthcare System chief of trauma services, called it a “remarkable recovery.”

What remains of the vehicle Zach Corliss, a Parkland resident, was driving when he was involved in a deadly, multi-car accident in August. Corliss was driving home from St. Petersburg, Fl., when he collided with an 18-wheeler at 65 mph.

What remains of the vehicle Zach Corliss, a Parkland resident, was driving when he was involved in a deadly, multi-car accident in August. Corliss was driving home from St. Petersburg, Fl., when he collided with an 18-wheeler at 65 mph. (Memorial Regional Hospital/Courtesy)

Corliss was in bad shape after the accident in Port Charlotte.

“There were a lot of times we were worried whether Zach would recover at all,” he said.

Dr. Scott Raffa, a neurosurgeon and spine surgeon, said Corliss had “two bad diagnoses” regarding his brain and spinal cord injuries.

Corliss, who has lost 40 pounds and is down to about 145, has endured nine surgeries, many of them termed “life saving,” and has at least three more scheduled. He still battles pain every day.

But he’s on a good road to recovery.

“It’s definitely a day to celebrate,” Raffa said.

A few months ago, it wasn’t certain these days would ever arrive.

His trauma hasn’t been the only issue for the family in the past two years or so. Corliss’ maternal grandfather died in December 2019. Seven months later, his maternal grandmother died. Seven months after that, his biological father died. Five months later, the accident occurred.

On top of that, he has a younger brother who has special needs and requires 24-hour care, so it’s been a trying period for the family.

For his part, Corliss pushed himself hard in rehabilitation, even telling his doctors his goal is to someday run a marathon. When he was scheduled for three days of therapy per week, he tried to do five days.

“My biggest thing is if I wasn’t doing anything, in my head I was hindering myself,” he said.

Corliss has recovered his cognitive skills remarkably well. The same can be said for his physical skills even though he said he’s still early in the recovery process.

“I was taking him to therapies,” said his stepfather, Gary Cohn, “taking the wheelchair out of the back of the truck, and then the following week it’s taking the crutch out of the back of the truck, and all of a sudden now it’s nothing.”

A few months ago, they retrofitted Corliss’ bathroom with bars and handles. “It’s all in the garage now,” Cohn said.

It’s been a miraculous recovery for Corliss and his family.

“We’re all just helping each other,” his mother said. “But he’s getting better and better and better, against all odds.

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Watch What Happens: South Florida woman returns pricey timepieces, owner pays it forward

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(WSVN) – A South Florida woman did a good deed after finding some expensive jewelry. Now just “Watch What Happens” when she returned them to their rightful owner. 7’s Kevin Ozebek reports.

There are two things in life that Michelle Bucur is passionate about: rescuing homeless animals…

Michelle Bucur: “So right now, I have three fosters. One of them is Hunter. (to Hunter) You’re so sweet. I love you.”

And Teslas.

Michelle Bucur: “I have 10 Teslas.”

In her spare time, Michelle volunteers at Wonder Paws Animal Rescue in Fort Lauderdale.

She also rents out her Star Wars-themed Teslas through a rental service called Turo.

Michelle Bucur: “Which is a peer-to-peer rental platform similar to Airbnb, but instead of for homes, it’s for vehicles.”

During the Christmas holiday, Michelle rented out a Tesla Model Y to a man from Boca Raton. When the rental period ended, she picked up the car and took it straight to a car wash.

Michelle Bucur: “Long story short, a week later, the previous guest contacted me and lets me know that he’s lost some of his belongings, and if we found them. I actually hadn’t seen them.”

The car had already been rented out to a new guest, who told Michelle nothing was in the car.

She then called the car wash … and got some good news.

Michelle Bucur: “They said, ‘Oh yeah, we found some watches on the side of the door, and we shoved them in the glove box.’”

Michelle wanted to keep the watches safe until she could get her car back, so she used the Tesla app on her phone to lock the car’s glove box.

When she finally got hold of the watches, she realized she was in possession of some pretty pricey timepieces.

Michelle Bucur: “They turned out to be super high-end watches worth like over $100,000 combined.”

They definitely were. They were a Rolex and an Audemars Piguet.

The owner told Michelle that even though they are expensive, their sentimental value is much more.

Michelle Bucur: “One had been given by his mom, who was suffering with Alzheimer’s now.”

Michelle says he offered her a finder’s fee for returning the watches. She declined the money, but gave a suggestion:

Michelle Bucur: “‘I do help with the rescue, and if you’re willing to donate, it’s tax deductible. I can give you the link and whatever donation you want to give to us.’”

He made the donation to Wonder Paws Animal Rescue, but the amount was quite a surprise: $10,000!

Paulina Claure, Wonder Paws Rescue: “We were speechless! We couldn’t believe it. We were in shock when we found out.”

Paulina Claure runs Wonder Paws with her mother, Patricia Lara. They just moved into a storefront in Fort Lauderdale and say this generous donation will make a huge impact.

Paulina Claure: “We have tons of medical cases every day and medical bills that are piling up, so it’s really nice to be able to have that money to be able to put towards our bills.”

Michelle’s foster dog, Hunter, just finished a pricey round of treatment for heartworms. She is excited that more rescued animals can now get the same care.

Michelle Bucur: “What comes around, goes around. I think, if we just continue to do good deeds and always try to help without expecting anything in return, eventually somebody comes around.”

For Michelle, that “eventually” is right now. Her good deed shows that timing is everything.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Mark Rosenberg resigns as FIU president, cites ‘recurring personal health issues’

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WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) – Florida International University has begun a national search for their sixth president after accepting Mark B. Rosenberg’s resignation, Friday afternoon.

In a letter to Board of Trustee Dean Colson, Rosenberg wrote that he has chosen to step down immediately to focus on himself and his family.

“I am stepping back so that I may give full attention to recurring personal health issues and to the deteriorating health of my wife, Rosalie,” he wrote in the letter.

He also wrote, “I want to thank our university community. I have always appreciated the ‘can­ do’ attitude of faculty colleagues, professional staff, and our hardworking students, and am grateful for the widespread community support that our university now enjoys.”

Rosenberg had been president since 2009.

FIU students hearing the news said they feel sad to see him go, calling him part of the school’s legacy.

“He was a really good president, and I’m definitely going to remember him,” said student Maria Aguirre. “He did a lot for the school and for the community, and he was always with the students.”

“Everything comes to an end at one point, so I think it’s time for him to retire, so he can just rest and be with his wife,” said student Katherine Cadavid.

Prior to Rosenberg’s letter to the FIU community, a letter was sent out by Colson.

Along with accepting Rosenberg’s resignation, the letter went on to reference a possible interim president.

“I will be nominating Chief Financial Officer & Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Dr. Kenneth Jessell to serve as interim president while we conduct a national search for FIU’s sixth president,” wrote Colson.

In ending his letter, Rosenberg said, “It has truly been the honor of a lifetime to represent our community and help build our FIU.”

FIU’s Board of Trustees held an emergency meeting Friday afternoon.

While Rosenberg had celebrated success in FIU, he also helped the student body through one of the school’s darkest days, after 2018’s bridge collapse.

But despite rave reviews and more than a decade of leadership, conspicuously missing from the Board of Trustees’ emergency meeting was any mention of Rosenberg’s long list of accomplishments. In fact, his name was never mentioned at all.

The only FIU official to mention his name publicly was the school’s new interim president, during a taped video message.

During the emergency meeting, the board of trustees appointed Jessell to the job.

“I want to thank former president Mark Rosenberg for his leadership and heard work, and making FIU what is is today. I know that we will continue to elevate our university to new heights,” said Jessell.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Homestead Police release picture of person of interest in fatal hit-and-run

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HOMESTEAD, FLA. (WSVN) – Homestead Police released a picture of a man they consider to be a person of interest in a hit-and-run that left an elderly man dead.

Police on Friday said they would like to question 20-year-old Edgar Mendez about Sunday’s crash in the area of Northwest Eighth Street and Campbell Drive.

Investigators said 71-year-old Carlos Diaz was walking was hit by a driver who took off before police responded.

If you have any information on this hit-and-run or Mendez’s whereabouts, call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.

Copyright 2021 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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