Local National Guard captain takes first steps since December crash

Posted at: 03/19/2014 11:28 AM
Updated at: 03/19/2014 10:47 PM
By: Jessica Layton

Timothy Neild takes his first steps this week after a car crash in December.
Timothy Neild takes his first steps this week after a car crash in December.

SCHENECTADY - With his wife and physical therapist by his side, Capt. Timothy Neild is taking the first steps he's taken since an accident that almost took his life. It marks a major milestone in a recovery that's been a work in progress every day for more than three months.

"During December I did wake up. But in January I was thankful to be alive," Neild said while getting therapy at Capital Living Rehabilitation in Schenectady.

On Dec. 9, the member of the 27th Infantry was on his way from the Capital Region to Syracuse for National Guard training. His wife Beth recalls being worried the night before.

"I just had a bad feeling. And once I got the call in my classroom I instantly knew something was wrong," she said.

They can only assume Neild hit a patch of black ice while driving his pickup truck west on the Thruway. 

A few hours later that day, someone from the hospital in Syracuse did call to say Neild was stable. But stable meant a crushed left foot, a nearly amputated right foot, broken ribs, a broken back, a punctured lung, a head injury and bad burns.

When Neild's truck crashed in the median near Exit 35, it burst into flames. Several passing motorists rushed to help -- including Sgt. Ray Pressley, who'd been driving a truck for a furniture company.

"I remember asking is he going to make it? If he's going to live. And they couldn't give me the answer right then," Beth recalled.

"He always carries a knife in his pocket. His knife cut my seat belt and got me out. And when he opened the door he said oh my gosh, that's my captain," the couple said.

In a remarkable twist, the two know each other. Neild is Pressley's platoon sergeant.

Neild gets emotional talking about being rescued. Thursday at the state Capitol, Neild gets to thank his hero for saving his life. He, along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will present Pressley with the state's Medal of Valor.

"Oh it's incredible. I'm really looking forward to it. It's just such a miracle I'm here," Neild said.

After the crash, Neild spent a month at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, followed by another month at Sunnyview Rehabilitation until moving to Capital Living at the beginning of February. He'll be going home to his family in a brand new house the couple was building in Guilderland later this week.

He's still learning to get back the full use of his hand. The care for his burned right arm is intense. But with all the love he's gotten from his wife, their 3-year-old Cate and his fans at Capital Living, he's getting stronger everyday.

"The amount I've improved is incredible. Sometimes I have to be reminded of that," he said.

Every step he takes is a reminder.