‘He's a Fighter': Marine Expected to Survive Head-on Crash

A Marine hit by a wrong-way driver near the Interstate 5/I-805 merge Saturday morning is expected to survive, though he faces multiple surgeries and a long road to recovery.

Luis Maldonado was driving northbound on Interstate 5 near the 805 merge when a 22-year-old driver hit him head-on. Maldonado was taken to Scripps La Jolla immediately.

Saturday night, doctors told his wife, Yanira Madirgal, he’ll survive.

"Hearing it was just like 'all right he’s still there, that’s my husband, he’s a fighter,'" Madirgal said. 

Together, they have a four-year-old daughter.

"You know, my first thought driving into the hospital this morning is like, 'I hope he’s going to be okay... my daughter needs a father,'" Madirgal told NBC 7.

Maldonado is also a Marine combat veteran. He did two active combats in Sangin, Afghanistan, and another tour later on.

Surviving motorcycle crashes and seven years as a Marine, his wife was shocked to know his life was almost taken by a wrong way driver.

"Just doing what anyone else would do, driving from A to B, someone goes on the freeway the wrong way and everyone life is all changed," Madirgal said. 

Maldonado was driving with his service dog Jax. Thankfully Jax has no broken bones and is expected to be okay. The two will recover together.

Madrigal still knows her husband has a long road ahead. "It’s just amazing to see him breathing, assisted, but breathing," Madirgal said. 

Doctors at Scripps La Jolla told Madirgal, "prepare for the long haul, multiple days of surgeries," she said. 

Other family members and friends surrounded her in the waiting room Saturday.

David Tovar is one of Maldonado’s best friends. he got a call alerting him to the crash Saturday morning.

"The phone rang and it’s one of my older friends Ted, and he never has any reason to call me this early," Tovar said. "He asked me if I’d heard from Luis and that’s never a good thing." 

Hours later on Saturday night, Tovar was relieved to find out Maldonado will recover.

"You get a sense of relief when it’s okay to let go of the idea of death, when you haven’t lost your friend forever, there’s a sense of relief,"  Tovar said.

Tovar told NBC 7 Maldonado was driving up to the Willow Springs International Raceway when he was hit early Saturday morning.

For years, Maldonado has raced motorbikes.

To help the family along their long road ahead, full of surgeries and physical therapy, a friend of the family set up a Go Fund Me page

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