Local News

Survivor of fiery wreck talks about his long recovery

Posted March 14, 2010 7:00 p.m. EDT
Updated January 26, 2011 4:12 p.m. EST

— Almost 14 months after the fiery wreck that left him with burns on 80 percent of his body, Robert Leffer spent the weekend at home with his family in Sanford.

Leffer, 49, was driving a garbage truck on Interstate 40 near Wade Avenue on Jan. 26, 2009, when an SUV cut across several lanes of traffic, causing a chain-reaction wreck, authorities said. Leffer's truck flipped, landed in the woods and burst into flames.

"I had to go for it. When I opened my door to run out, I saw 5- to 6-foot flames,” Leffer said Sunday as he recalled the crash.

Leffer has undergone numerous surgeries and daily physical and occupational therapy at the North Carolina Jaycee Burns Center at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

He returned home from the hospital Friday. Leffer still has years of rehabilitation ahead of him, but said he's just glad to finally be home with his family.

"It's just hard to find the words," he said. "You look back at things you could have done then, that you want to do now, and you just cherish it."

Leffer's wife, Amalia, and 2-year-old son Robert, spent most of their time in Chapel Hill to be near him as he recovered.

"I was very afraid thinking maybe (this) would never happen,” Amalia Leffer said of her husband's homecoming.

Leffer said he couldn't have made it without the support of his family, his church and the staff at the burn center.