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Injured USF Student Returns to Tampa

USF student Barbara "Barbie" Jimenez returned to Tampa Friday afternoon, where she was reportedly able to walk from a medical transport plane to an ambulance.

The 22-year-old senior was taken from the International Jet Center to Tampa General Hospital, where she will continue recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident in Cuba in early August.

Jimenez and her family didn't say anything reporters Friday, but they said she would speak in the coming days.

Brooksville-based air ambulance company JET I.C.U. picked up the cost of the flight from Cuba, believed to be between $15,000 and $20,000.

USF senior Barbara "Barbie" Jimenez, who has been in a Cuban hospital since being seriously injured earlier this month, is scheduled to arrive in Tampa Friday afternoon.

Jimenez, 22, was briefly left in a coma after a car accident in Havana August 3 that killed one man and injured her, her boyfriend and two of her family members.

She and boyfriend, John Fox, had just arrived on a visit to her aunt and uncle, and had left the airport about a half hour before the taxi cab they were in was struck head on by a government transportation truck.

The cab driver was killed. Fox, who works for Northrop Grumman in Melbourne, Florida, was airlifted from Havana to a Miami hospital, where he continues recovering from his injuries. The two other passengers, Jimenez's cousin and aunt, are both in stable condition.

Jimenez couldn't afford to fly home because her insurance had recently lapsed. Local air ambulance company JET I.C.U. offered to fly Jimenez back to Tampa for free. She's scheduled to land at the Tampa International Jet Center Friday afternoon.

Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News
WUSF 89.7 News
Caridad Jimenez speaks about her injured sister, Barbara, at a news conference Aug. 26 as Dr. Carlos Smith of JET I.C.U, USF President Judy Genshaft and Cong. David Jolly look on.

Earlier this week, Michael Honeycutt, President of the Hernando County-based company, spoke about why his company contacted Congressman David Jolly to offer to fly Jimenez back and pick up the $15,000 cost for the flight.

"We've been blessed as a business here in Tampa Bay and whenever we can give back to the community, we feel like we should," he said at a news conference held Wednesday at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

After Jimenez clears customs, she'll be taken to Tampa General Hospital for continued care.

For her sister, Caridad, it'll be a moment she's been awaiting.

"I just want to hug her and see her and kiss her," she said through tears at the Wednesday news conference. "Because pretty much these last few days, the image that keeps surfacing in my head is, when she was born, I would hold her in my hands, and just now the fact that I can't hold her in my hands at this moment, but just the fact that I'm going to be able to just be with her."

A GoFundMe campaign organized by members of Jimenez's sorority, the Beta Gamma chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha, has raised more than $22,000 by Friday afternoon. That money will go to Jimenez's continued care.

Caridad Jimenez said the generosity of the donors to that campaign, as well as that of JET I.C.U.'s owners, was a comfort to her and her family.

"We sometimes feel like people don't care, people aren't invested in others," she said. "For someone who doesn't know me, doesn't know my sister, has no vested interest in doing this, for them to step out and offer this, and then free of charge, that's just amazing that people like that still exist."

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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