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North Carolina college grad severely injured in Ecuador being brought back to US

GREENSBORO, N.C. – A North Carolina woman can finally return to the states after a crash in Ecuador almost cost her her life.

The family vacation was idyllic in the beginning.

"The first week was magical. It was a great. A trip of a life time," Joseph Beck said.

"Neither of us had been out of the country before," his son, Tyson, said.

Along for the journey with Joseph and Tyson were Joseph's girlfriend Vivian and her two daughters.

Kristen Poteat, one of Vivian's daughters, had just walked across the stage at UNCG in May, receiving a master's in education. She also has a wedding planned for early August.

The trip was meant to be a joyful celebration, but it came to a crashing halt June 29.

"The brakes failed halfway down [the mountain]. The driver pulled the emergency brake, but there was no brake," Beck said. "We knew we were going off. It was either going to be a head-on collision or we were going off the mountain. Everyone just prayed and panicked."

Poteat wasn't wearing a seat belt so Beck tried his best to shield her.

"[The seat belt] was under the console. I told her to get down and brace, because we were going to crash," he said. "The last thing I remember is us going over the retaining wall and everything floating in the air like there was no gravity. When we hit, it was black."

When he woke up, he saw Poteat lying feet away from the van.

"She was out of the van. It was bad. We're all very luck because those cliffs are hundreds of feet high. It could have been so much worse," he said.

It took hours for them to get to a nearby hospital.

Beck was in surgery for several hours.

"I had a shattered elbow, my humerus was broken in the socket and a fractured scapula. It was the worst pain I'd ever felt," he said.

Poteat still hasn't woken up.

Beck said she has a fractured spine, broken arm, a severe head injury and brain swelling.

She had been in an Ecuadorian hospital since the accident, but thanks to an online campaign, enough money was raised to bring her back to the United States.

"Because of the community, she's able to come home," Beck said.

For the family, it's yet another miracle.

Soon, they hope she'll be one step closer to walking down the aisle with her fiance.

"We're glad to be home, and we're praying for Kristen," Beck said. "She's not out of the woods just yet."

Poteat and her mom are expected to arrive at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital Thursday.

The rest of the family will get back to Greensboro Saturday.

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