Claudia Hoca, a noted pianist for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, was seriously injured in a car crash last week on the Thruway near Hamburg.
Ted Hoca, her brother, said there is “no guarantee she will ever play the piano again.”
Irene Haupt, a friend of Hoca’s, said the crash occurred about 11 p.m. Tuesday as Hoca was driving home from the Chautauqua Institution, where she performed for a pops concert with the Chautauqua Symphony.
Hoca, 63, was traveling east on the Thruway when she lost control of her vehicle while trying to avoid hitting an animal in the road, according to state police.
Her vehicle went off the north shoulder of the road and struck an earth embankment, before it went airborne and came to rest in a wooded area off the Thruway, investigators said.
“Her car flipped and rolled off the highway into an embankment. ... She got trapped behind the airbag,” said Haupt, who added that Hoca remained pinned in the car until dawn, when the morning light allowed her to locate her cellphone.
“She called 911 and had to stay on the phone since they could not even locate the car,” Haupt said.
Hoca had to be freed from the wreckage by firefighters from the Scranton Volunteer Fire Company, police said.
She was flown by Mercy Flight to Erie County Medical Center, Haupt said, and underwent surgery Friday morning. Hoca’s injuries, Haupt said, included a cracked neck vertebrae and injuries to her wrists, ribs and knee.
She was listed in serious condition in the trauma intensive-care unit on Saturday, a hospital official said.
Haupt, who visited Hoca in ECMC on Wednesday, said she was badly bruised but conscious and that her prognosis was good.
Born in Austria, Hoca graduated from the Curtis Institute, where her classmates included Andre Watts, who became a good friend of hers. She was a Fulbright scholar and has appeared as a soloist not only with the BPO, where she is staff pianist, but with many major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston Pops.
Hoca has performed regularly for “A Musical Feast,” the concert series run by Irene Haupt and her husband, former BPO concertmaster Charles Haupt. She has also been featured with the Ars Nova Musicians in their popular “Viva Vivaldi” festival.
Hoca has seven cats and also raises monarch butterflies, Haupt said, and returns home promptly from concerts to tend to her pets.
“There she is, trying to avoid an animal in her path,” she said. “If she had not had her cellphone, they might never have found her.”
A benefit concert is being planned for Hoca, who has no health insurance, in the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Haupt said.
News Staff Reporter Jay Rey contributed to this report