Phoenix fire captain dies after battling prolific injuries from 2009 on-duty crashPosted: Updated:
A Phoenix fire captain who suffered prolific injuries in an on-duty accident almost 8 years ago died Saturday after "amazing display of courage," fire officials say.
"This is really a difficult day for us because it marks the end of a 7 or 8-year battle," says Phoenix Fire Capt. P.J. Dean.
On Aug. 10, 2009, Crystal Rezzonico, who was aboard Engine 910 traveling near Interstate 17 and the Dunlap overpass, was ejected after a car slammed into the fire engine that was responding to an emergency call.
"This was a horrible accident, that fire truck was struck by a vehicle traveling almost 70 miles per hour, Crystal was ejected from her front right seat, where the Captain sits and thrown a great distance into a concrete median, head first," says Capt. Dean.
Eight vehicles were involved and 14 people were injured.
Rezzonico suffered a traumatic brain injury, two broken legs and two broken shoulders, among the challenges she faced as a result of the accident.
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She spent two weeks in a coma, underwent multiple surgeries, including five brain surgeries and endured eight grueling weeks of neurological rehab just to be able to walk and talk again.
It wasn't until two months after the accident that she realized what had happened.
"Over the course of the next seven years, Capt. Rezzonico would fight a heroic and monumental battle of survival to overcome the demons that would relentlessly haunt her from that fateful day," according to a statement from United Phoenix Firefighters.
In an interview several years ago, Rezzonico said her family never left her side.
"They were holding my hand, talking to me, giving me strength and drive to hang in there," she said.
Captain Rezzonico defied the odds, fought a heroic battle of survival, conquered five brain surgeries and eventually was able to make it back on the fire truck.
"I proved those experts wrong and I'm back on the truck!" she said.
Sadly, her injuries were so extreme, they continued to haunt her and she passed away peacefully Saturday night.
"Throughout the seven years, there was just a host of different complications that arose from that injury that ultimately took her life. It took her seven years to die from that incident. That's just how tough she was," says Capt. Dean.
Although Rezzonico has left this earth, her colleagues she also left a profound and admirable legacy.
"She was an absolute legend. She was a larger than life personality. The important thing that she would want to pass on is just convey to everyone and she did by example was just to express that you can do anything you put your mind to and she did, she cheated death for a very long time," Capt. Dean. said.
Phoenix firefighters said they will never forget her stamina.
"Her will was unstoppable, her courage undaunted as she clawed her way back, day by day from what were seemingly insurmountable odds. At one point she was even able to don her gear once again and return to one of her greatest passions - being a firefighter," United Phoenix Firefighters said.
Her death will be memorialized by the Phoenix Fire Department and City of Phoenix as a Line of Duty Death with full honors. Details are still pending.
Rezzonico began her career with the Phoenix Fire Department as a recruit in March 1991. She was hired as a firefighter in June 1991. She was promoted to captain in 2006.
"Her loss brings us great pain but also great peace to know that our beloved sister and her family suffer no more," United Phoenix Firefighters said. "She will be forever held in the hearts of our membership and her legacy shall serve as inspiration to continue our mission of protecting the public, even to our own demise.
"Rest in Peace Captain Crystal Rezzonico, you are now home and will be greatly missed," the statement read.
Capt. Rezzonico is the first female to die in an in-line-of-duty death. She served 23 years with the Phoenix Fire Department.
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