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Head-on crash puts his dream of flight on hold

December 29, 2000

Head-on crash puts his dream of flight on hold



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


MYERSVILLE, Md. - The traffic accident that shattered Christopher Smith's leg may also have shattered his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot.

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Smith, of Myersville, Md., was injured on Dec. 5 when his Grad Am was hit head-on on U.S. 40 near Crossfield Road by a pickup truck that police said was involved in a drag race with another pickup truck.

Smith, who turned 19 during the 13 days he spent in Washington County Hospital, was returning home from running errands at the time of the crash.

It took 20 minutes for rescuers to free Smith from his crumpled car, said Jim Kershner, deputy fire chief with the Funkstown Fire Co., who was one of the first on the scene.

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Although Smith was in great pain he didn't become hysterical, Kershner said.

"He was really brave," he said.

The accident left Smith with a torn spleen, a bruised lung and a concussion. His right leg was broken and the bones in his shin were crushed and had broken through his skin.

"He faces months or years of rehabilitation and may never walk without a limp when the rehabilitation is complete. His dream of being an Air Force pilot is over," said his father, Tom Smith.

Police charged Steven Jennings Harvey, 29, of 213 Bentley Court in Hagerstown, with speeding, reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, driving under the influence, driving with a revoked license, driving without a license, failure to have a license with him and unsafe passing.

The identity of the second pickup driver, who did not stop at the scene, was not released.

What bothers Smith's mother, Stephanie, the most was that the crash didn't have to happen, she said.

"This is horrible. I'm really angry about the whole situation," she said.

Christopher Smith is visited by a physical therapist and by a nurse who changes the dressings on four skin grafts.

Her son, who never before had a broken bone, "has pins and rods holding his leg together," Stephanie Smith said.

Christopher Smith relies on crutches to walk but spends most of his time in a wheelchair or lying down, which is hard for a normally active, physically fit teenager to accept, Stephanie Smith said.

His spirits "are up and down," she said.

On Wednesday, Christopher Smith sat in a wheelchair and talked about the day of the crash.

"It hurts a lot, but it's nice to be here," he said.

His right hand remains bandaged and one of his knuckles doesn't bend. His right leg was propped up and swathed in bandages.

Christopher Smith, a student at Frederick Community College, said he and his neighbor Kevin were returning from running errands in Hagerstown when the crash occurred just eight miles from his Myersville home.

"I have no memory of it until the next day," said Christopher Smith. The only thing he can recall is asking over and over if Kevin was all right, he said. Kevin received minor injuries.

Before leaving a Hagerstown restaurant around 8 that night, Smith said he called his mother to let her know he would be home in half an hour.

When he didn't arrive on time, Stephanie Smith began to worry. By 10 p.m., the phone rang and a caller told her that her son had been injured in an accident but would recover.

"They said he was a hair away from losing his leg," she said.

As Christopher Smith undergoes therapy each day, family members try to focus on the possibility that he will regain full mobility and someday go on to fulfill his dreams.

Christopher Smith said he decided he wanted to become a pilot after attending an air show with his father seven years ago.

"I knew I wanted to fly," he said.

He said he isn't making alternate career plans.

"I just want to think about getting better," he said.

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