Columbus, GA (WTVM) - Kimberly Valdespino and her parents got to spend one last Christmas with her dear uncle Ralph Valdespino, who remained in the hospital after he was in a major car accident about two weeks ago.
"My dad was able to spend some time with his brother and let it sink in, have that time which a lot of times people don't get that time," she said.
Ralph, 67, held on one more day, and according to the Muscogee County Coroner's office, he passed away early Monday afternoon, from brain injuries suffered that night when his truck slid and fell into a ditch along Whitesville Road.
The Valdespino family knew exactly who to thank for pulling Ralph out of that ditch.
"So many times, people can just rubberneck and keep going, and you all didn't," Kimberly Valdespino told Corporal David Lang, a 9-year-veteran with the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office.
"For that," she said, "there's something that we get to keep that's priceless, like the time. We're just extremely grateful."
Lang was one of a few rescuers who brought Ralph back to life; he said he instinctively performed CPR when he saw the unconscious man.
"I honestly believe there was something divine that occurred, that put me in that place at that time," he said, "and allowed me to meet this wonderful family."
After first connecting on Facebook through an article reporting the initial accident, the two families decided to come together Monday night. Lang said there was no way he was missing the opportunity to hug the Valdespino's.
"This time of year, especially, it hits home," he said. "It makes you realize that there is a part of the job where, you know, this is what you're doing - what you're here for is to make an effort and try your best to change lives and change the outcomes."
The Valdespino's shared stories of Ralph with Lang, including his love of cooking, which is something, they said, they will undoubtedly miss.
Ralph's family said they're now working to get him back home to California, and put him in his final resting place, next to his mother and sister.