• News/ 

    Hulk Defends Son's Role in Crash

    In Nick Hogan's case, father knows best.

    Hulk Hogan has smacked down media suggestions that his 17-year-old son's bad driving record and affinity for racing may have been to blame for a car crash that seriously injured the younger Hogan and critically injured his best friend, John Graziano, a 22-year-old Marine who served a tour of duty in Iraq.

    "The most important thing to me was from all the eyewitnesses and everyone that was there and saw it was that they were not racing," the former pro-wrestling superstar told The Insider.

    The sit-down with the syndicated TV magazine came in the wake of reports that Nick Hogan, whose real name is Nick Bollea, had racked up four speeding tickets within the past year alone and amid interviews conducted by a local Tampa Bay news station with witnesses who claimed he was chasing a silver Dodge Viper just before the accident occurred.

    "It's just so unfair," added Hogan. "Just the way the media jumped on my son and just the way they portrayed him. From my gut, it's something that has torn two families apart, and we're just so close to John's family. "

    The star of VH1's Hogan Knows Best gave the interview while promoting the kickoff of the National Wave program, a charity initiative sponsored by the Freedom Group of America encouraging Americans to rally together in a simultaneous towel-waving event on the Fourth of July to demonstrate the nation's unity. 

    Hogan, who is the chief spokesperson for the campaign, became very emotional as he recalled that fateful day.

    "We were going to get something to eat and Nick paged me and said, 'Dad, I want to go early because we don't have a table at the restaurant,' " recalled the wrestling legend.  "As I was going down our normal route...I saw this yellow car all twisted—and bam—it was my car. "

    Added Hogan: "When I saw the wreck I didn't think anybody was alive. I thought no one could have lived through a wreck like that."

    Nick was behind the wheel of Hulk's yellow Toyota Supra sports car on Aug. 26, driving along four-lane highway in downtown Clearwater, when the vehicle jumped a raised median, spun out of control and slammed into a palm tree.

    He and Graziano were subsequently extracted from the car by firefighters, treated on the scene by paramedics, then airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center in nearby St. Petersburg.

    Hogan, whose birth name is Terry Bollea, said his son was "hanging in there" after suffering non-life-threatening injuries, including a broken arm, some broken ribs and neck and knee problems. Graziano, on the other hand, wasn't so lucky and remains in critical condition. 

    Last week, the Tampa Tribune quoted his grandmother as saying there's a chance the veteran, who is in a coma, may have suffered brain damage. Doctors have so far been unable to operate due to brain swelling.

    Various media outlets meanwhile have since characterized the two pals as adrenaline junkies with an interest in fast cars—pointing, for instance, to Bollea's MySpace blogs about "working [his] way into the drifting world" and boning up on his skills in hopes of participating in a formula race.

    Investigators have said little about the cause of the crash, except to note that Bollea was driving at a high rate of speed at the time. They also ruled out alcohol as a possible factor.

    Citing the latter statement, Hogan reiterated that his son isn't guilty of anything.

    "I'm trying to tell my son to stay strong, because at the end of the day, when all the facts are in, it was an accident," he said.

    Noting that Graziano is like a son to him and both families are extremely close, Hogan expressed optimism that all will turn out well.

    "[Nick's] going to be okay. John's going to be okay, and if things keep going the way they're going...Nick and I are going to walk John right out of that hospital," he said.

    Those sentiments were echoed by Graziano's own mother, Debra, who sent an email to St. Petersburg's Bay News 9 expressing her appreciation for the Hogans and thanking the community for all the outpouring of prayers on behalf of her son.

    "My son John has been very close to the Bollea family for over six years," she wrote. "They are like extended family. Since day one of this nightmare, they have been with us physically, emotionally, mentally and financially."

    She added that Hulk, his wife, Linda, and Nick have been with the family at the hospital every day praying for John's recovery and offering food and support. 

    "They came and faced our family and friends not knowing what response they would get," said Graziano.

    "Nick is experiencing every step in the process with us. His parents are holding him accountable as any good parent would," she added. "He is a 17-year-old who is suffering watching his can imagine how he feels."

    Graziano explained how her son was like an "older brother to Nick," a "good role model," and that the two had developed a deep friendship "over a love of cars." In fact, John bought his mother her own car using his combat pay before shipping out for Iraq.

    She said John would be angry to know this family was being torn apart in the media by "assumptions and downright lies."

    While she declined to go into detail about those allegations, Graziano meanwhile has her own family fueds to contend with.

    According to published reports, Debra's husband, Edward Graziano, was busted last Thursday after getting physical against members of his family at the hospital. 

    Following that incident, Debra renewed a domestic violence injunction against her husband that she had taken out after Edward was taken into custody on June 21 and charged with domestic battery, battery on a law enforcement officer and tampering with a witness.  He reportedly went back to the hospital on Friday, violating the court order, only to get arrested again at a nearby hotel.

    As of Monday,  he remained in custody at Pinellas County Jail.