Noel Espino, the soldier critically injured Sept. 19 when he was hit by an SUV on a Lexington sidewalk, is out of the hospital and has released a letter thanking the community for its support during his continuing recovery.
"The circumstances that we were introduced to Lexington were very traumatic and dismal, however the community of Lexington showed their true colors and were more than supportive throughout this trying time for our family," Espino said in the letter dated Saturday.
University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital confirmed that Espino was released. He was in the hospital for 16 weeks after his injury, undergoing multiple surgeries, including the amputation of his left leg and part of his pelvic bone.
Espino will now move to a Veterans Administration hospital in California for the physical therapy he will need for full recovery.
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He was injured on Euclid Avenue on the evening of Sept. 19, when he was struck on the sidewalk by an SUV.
The driver fled, and police later arrested Jarad McCargo, then a Lexington firefighter.
Police charged McCargo with driving under the influence, and the city fired him three days later.
According to police, McCargo backed his Ford Expedition over the curb near The Beer Trappe bar on Euclid Avenue, striking Espino on the sidewalk. Two other people also were injured.
A Fayette County grand jury indicted McCargo in November on a variety of charges, including wanton endangerment and DUI.
Espino, a member of the National Guard, has a long way to go before making a full recovery, "so your continued prayers are always welcome," his family said in the thank-you letter.
Espino and his family offered special thanks to the Kentucky National Guard, including state Adjutant Gen. Edward Tonini and other Guard officials, for their support.
Espino also thanked the UK Hospital staff, including members of the intensive care, orthopedics, cardiology and renal teams for the care they provided.
"To the Catholic community of Lexington, we thank you so much for your kind words of support and prayers," the family wrote. "You shared our pain and prayed with us throughout this trying time, and the Lord has answered our prayers."
The Espino family, which is of Filipino descent, thanked Lexington's Filipino community "for seeking us out and accepting us into your family."
"If we have forgotten to thank or mention anyone, pleasure forgive us as the support shown and provided to us by the Lexington community was overwhelming and cannot be measured."