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War veteran dies after motorcycle crash, family allegedly kicked out of ICU waiting room

By: Bill Melugin

EL PASO, Texas --

The 34-year-old man who was injured over the weekend when his motorcycle struck a median along Lee Trevino Drive near Rojas has died.

Daniel Vanegas, a former Fort Bliss soldier and three time Iraq War veteran, died Wednesday evening while in the hospital, said Venegas' family members.

El Paso police said Vanegas suffered a serious head injury when his 2006 green and black Harley-Davidson motorcycle collided with a median. He was taken to Del Sol Medical Center.

KFOX14 spoke with Vanegas' family the day before he passed way. They alleged that a nurse at Del Sol made an already difficult experience even harder for the family.

Daniel's mother, Maria Vanegas, lives in San Antonio, and flew into El Paso as soon as she heard the news.

"I got the call at 3 a.m Sunday morning about my son's accident," Vanegas said. "As soon as we got here, we went to see Daniel in the intensive care unit."

Other family members had flown in as well, some from California. Vanegas told KFOX14 many of them were waiting to see Daniel in the ICU waiting room when a nurse allegedly approached them with two security guards, and told them to leave so the room could be cleaned.

"My daughter in law said 'Well I'm his wife,', they said 'Well you can stay, we can accommodate you, but everyone else can go home,' and I said 'Wait a minute, what about me? I'm his mother, I have a right to be with my son," Vanegas said. "She said, 'Well this is not a hotel, you should've made arrangements to stay, and planned ahead."

Vanegas' daughter, Natasha, was allegedly told to leave as well.

"I feel like they treated us like trash," Natasha said. "That's my father, we can stay because we're his family."

At the time of the interview, Daniel Vanegas was barely clinging to life.

"He's almost brain dead, he has multiple fractures to his body, his kidneys are giving away and they're doing dialysis, he broke a pelvis, his brain is 90 percent unfunctional, and that's why I wanted to be with him," Maria Vanegas said as she tried to hold back tears.

The family told KFOX14 they simply wanted to see Daniel before he took his last breath, and that if the nurse had approached the situation differently, they would have respected the hospital's decision.

"He's a hero, he's a staff sergeant in the military, he did three tours in Iraq, he went to Kosovo, he went to the DMZ in North Korea, and he battled fires in California," Vanegas said. "He volunteered for everything, my son is a hero, [the nurse] should have been more compassionate and understanding."

"I wanted to pray for my dad, and be there for him, and be there every step and make sure he's okay because I love him a lot," Natasha said.

The Vanegas family told KFOX14 Daniel was a registered organ donor, and wanted to give life to others, however, when doctors performed the surgery to remove his organs, they determined they were too damaged from his injuries, and unusable for transplants.

Del Sol Medical Center released the following statement to KFOX14 regarding the incident.

"Del Sol Medical Center's top priority is to provide exceptional care to our patients. We also work hard to ensure that families of our patients feel comfortable when their loved one is in the hospital. Del Sol's waiting room policy is one that carefully balances the need to create a quiet environment for patients while accommodating family members so that they may spend time with their loved one," said Melissa Offutt, administrative director, marketing and communications, of Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare.

Special traffic investigators determined that Vanegas was not wearing a helmet and was speeding on south Lee Trevino Street when he hit the median and then hit his head on the road. No other vehicles were involved.

Vanegas leaves five children behind.



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