Missing Cab Driver Found in Jamaica Hospital Bed Days After Cracked Skull
A seriously injured livery car driver lay in a Queens hospital for nearly a week before his family — who feared he was dead — finally was notified of his whereabouts, the Daily News has learned.
An ambulance took Israel Nunez to Jamaica Hospital at 3 a.m. on March 29, after he was found sitting on a curb with a cracked skull — apparently the victim of a brutal assault. He still has no idea what happened.
Nunez’s wife, Claudia Leal, didn’t find out where he was until Wednesday, when a hospital social worker called and said Nunez had been admitted to the hospital six days earlier and was recovering from surgery.
“It’s outrageous,” Leal said. “We called Jamaica Hospital. They said they had nobody by even his last name. I went in person . . . with the flyer the police made. It has his picture on it. They saw the photo and said he wasn’t there.”
Detectives also called and went to the hospital, but they likewise came up empty, police said.
“It’s hard to understand how in this day and age, with technology so advanced, a person can be in a hospital for six days, missing for six days, and the family had not been notified,” said Fernando Mateo, president of the New York Federation of Taxi Drivers.
Hospital spokesman Michael Hinck said patient privacy laws prohibited him from answering The News’ questions.
“We’re very happy family and patient have been successfully reunited,” he said.
Nunez was found bleeding and disoriented in Hollis, Queens, and told an emergency services crew his name was Daniel Nunez, according to the ambulance report.
“Unable to obtain any information on the patient except his name and we are not sure this is really his name,” a member of the ambulance crew wrote.
Nunez, 47, had been hit by a blunt object, authorities said. Surgeons had to cut away a large section of his skull to remove bone fragments from his brain and relieve pressure from swelling. He was unconscious for days.
Police officers and detectives from the 103rd Precinct, meanwhile, found his car on Tuesday during a block-by-block canvass of the neighborhood at 202nd St. and Jamaica Ave. A police dog picked up his scent and followed it to a nearby house, police said. The trail then went cold.
At the hospital, Nunez regained consciousness Tuesday, and he couldn’t understand why the staff called him Daniel.
“I kept telling them my name is Israel Nunez,” he told The News on Thursday, still wearing a hospital wristband that identified him as Daniel. “They would say, ‘Okay, okay,’ and then just go away. I couldn’t do anything. I kept asking about my princesses, my 6-year-old and 15-year-old daughters. I was worried about my family.”
Nunez couldn’t remember his wife’s telephone number, but he recalled she had spent weeks at another hospital. With that tidbit, the social worker cracked the identity part of Nunez’s mystery and notified Leal. After a tearful reunion with her husband, Leal received his clothes from the hospital. In his jacket pocket, she said, she found his checkbook and bank card — both containing his name. The checkbook also had his address.
Detectives, meanwhile, continue to investigate. The last thing the cabbie remembers is a woman getting into his cab to go to Queens Village.
“The rest is black,” he said.
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Re: Missing Cab Driver Found in Jamaica Hospital Bed Days After Cracked Skull
I'd be going insane wondering where he was, poor family. Crazy.
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