Fernelin Erncarnacion, a 22-year-old man from the Bronx, New York, was walking around the neighborhood of Kingsbridge Heights last Tuesday.
Nothing was unusual except maybe the pouring rain—
—until he was hit in the head by a stray bullet.
He was bleeding out and badly injured—but somehow, he was alive. A bullet to the head would normally kill someone instantly. How had he survived?
Remarkably, he didn’t even lose consciousness—in fact, he was able to reach the police on his own.
“I [ran] to the police, and I tell them I need help, I got shot,” Fernelin recalled to CBS New York. But he was confused to what had actually happened.
“I asked him, ‘Is this a real bullet, because it doesn’t feel like it?’” Fernelin recalled asking the police.
“And they said, ‘I don’t know, but you know something, you’re a lucky guy.”
Fernelin was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital. His sister received the call about what had happened, and immediately assumed the worst:
“When you heard somebody get shot in their head, it means [they’re] dead,” she told CBS.
Well, he wasn’t dead. And while Fernelin began a long recovery process in the hospital, they figured out exactly how he survived:
His backpack shielded him from the bullet.
It suddenly started raining that day, so Fernelin, caught outside, decided to cover himself by holding his backpack above his head.
But the makeshift umbrella ended up doing so much more than keeping him dry: It saved his life.
“The material of the bag is very thick, so it kind of slowed the bullet from going into his brain,” his sister explained to CBS.
That’s not to ignore the serious injury Fernelin sustained. He reportedly still has the bullet lodged in his skull, as the doctors are concerned about the bleeding that may occur.
And while the police say Fernelin was probably hit by a stray bullet and not intentionally shot, the incident has still left him understandably shocked.
“He’s been crying a lot,” his sister told CBS. “He don’t know who shot him, what happened. It’s going to take a long time for him to recover with that.”
But still, Fernelin is remarkably lucky to be alive at all. The unlikely twist of fate isn’t lost on him: while the life-saving backpack is currently in police evidence, he’s asked for it to be returned to him.
And his sister told CBS that she doesn’t even hold any hatred towards the shooter—she’s just grateful her brother survived.