“Thankful that he is still here:” Huge turnout in support for limo driver hurt in New Year’s Day crash

Joe Farrugia

OCONOMOWOC -- Joe Farrugia, a limousine driver, was badly injured in a hit-and-run collision on New Year's Day. Family and friends packed the Hideaway Bar and Grill in Oconomowoc, on Saturday, January 20th, to rally in support of him.

It was standing room only all day at the local bar. Hundreds of people showed up, not only to help raise money for medical bills, but also to buy Farrugia a new limousine.

"It's overwhelming. It's just overwhelming," said Joe.

Fundraiser for Joe Farrugia

Fundraiser for Joe Farrugia

Besides driving limousine, Joe Farrugia is also a bartender at the local bar. On New Year's Day, around 5:00 a.m. on Mill Road near Parkway Drive in Menomonee Falls, Farrugia was driving four passengers in his limousine. Prosecutors say 38-year-old Eric Joling, a Marine veteran, was driving his Jeep Grand Cherokee the wrong way when he struck the limo. Officers noted an odor of alcohol on Joling's breath and a preliminary breath test revealed at result of .178 -- more than double the legal limit.

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Natalie Lozano

"We are just so thankful that he is still here," said Natalie Lozano, coordinator.

Everyone in Farrugia's limo, including Farrugia himself, ended up in the hospital. Farrugia underwent a six-hour long surgery on his leg.

"I thought I was going to lose my leg going into surgery," said Farrugia.

Joe Farrugia

Because he has such a giving heart, his friends are now on a quest to give back.

"Pay his bills and help him with his rent and things like that," said Gary Schmidtt, Farrugia's friend.

So many turned out for the fundraiser, the crowd spilled out onto the patio. Farrugia faces a long road to recovery; he will still need to undergo several surgeries and months of physical therapy before he's back behind the wheel.

Joe Farrugia

"I just thank everyone. It's amazing. I'm just very lucky," said Farrugia.

Joling faces five counts of OWI and another count because this is his fourth offense. He's due back in court next month.