Her father, Jose Cortes, did not wait for paramedics at the scene of the freak accident. He removed his shirt, stuffed it into her neck to control the bleeding and chose to drive his daughter to University Hospital in Newark, careening through the streets of two counties. Rita Cortes was listed in critical but stable condition.
Jose Cortes said he was driving to church with his daughter, who was to rehearse for an upcoming concert, when the muffler sailed across the highway from the southbound lanes and struck the passenger side window at about 10 a.m.
Jose Cortes was not injured.
The muffler, he said, looked old and dented. He speculates that it was actually road debris, launched unintentionally into the air by a southbound vehicle.
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