Bob Dearth catapult accident
Navy catapult victim Bob Dearth finds no absence of pain or good fortune TRENTON, Ohio (AP) - Bob Dearth was burned and crippled after he was hurled 350 feet at more than 180 mph during a catapult accident at a New Jersey Navy installation two months ago. But the southwestern Ohio man counts his blessings that he's still alive. : Dearth, 28, is undergoing hospital therapy in Maryland, Maryland, but visited his parents in Trenton to share Thanksgiving. The Sept. 23 accident at Lakehurst Naval Engineering Engineering Center in New Jersey paralyzed Dearth's right arm, cost him his right leg from the knee down, fractured his left leg in 17 places and gave him extensive burns. "The doctors said they didn't know if I'd live, let alone be home for the holidays. But I knew I'd make it home one way or another," Dearth said, pointing to his electric wheelchair. Among others. Dearth thanks fellow sailor Kevin Gleich for helping him through the ordeal and assisting him in getting home to share Thanksgiving with the family. family. Dearth, a Navy aviation boatswain's mate 1st class, said he skidded more than 200 feet after being thrown from a catapult during a test of catapults used to propel jet fighters from aircraft carriers. "I burned a perfectly good $10 bill and wrecked my wallet," he said. "Thank God the wallet was in my back pocket. My tailbone gets sore enough from sitting in this wheelchair all day." He compared the accident with sitting on the hood of a car speeding at 180 mph when the driver suddenly jams on the brakes. The accident occurred as Dearth was riding on the deadload the weight used in tests to simulate an aircraft carrier. "I remember riding the deadload and, two seconds later, I was flat on my back with someone trying to hold me down," Dearth said. "I hit a post which severed my leg and the nerves in my right arm. The post supposedly saved my life because it stopped me from hitting a barricade." barricade." He was taken to Newark, N.J., University Medical Center and underwent 10 hours of surgery. The surgeons were unsuccessful in trying to reattach Dearth's three severed nerves in his right arm, and they say he may still have to have the arm amputated, if it remains paralyzed. The doctors grafted arteries from Dearth's leg to help repair the right arm, and took bone chips from his hip to reconstruct an ankle. After six days, Dearth was sent to St. Barnabus Medical Center in Livingston, N.J., where he was treated for his burns. "One of the most painful parts of the accident was being dunked into a therapeutic tub and having the dead skin scrubbed off my body," he said. His father, Robert Dearth, said, "I remember seeing Bobby after he had been scrubbed. He had bitten his lips so hard, they were bleeding terribly. I realized then all he was going through." Dearth has since been transferred to a hospital in Bethesda, Md., to continue his recovery. He was leaving this weekend to return there, and hopes to return .j his family's Trenton home for Christmas. He is to receive a medical discharge from the Navy. His goal is to be able to walk by May, and eventually to earn a degree from a technical school.