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Accident sidelines W.Va. coach

December 27, 2001

Accident sidelines W.Va. coach



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI
kimy@herald-mail.com


A Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School coach was at home Monday, recovering from a broken neck he sustained in a traffic accident near the school Sunday.

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"I'm thanking God every moment that I'm doing as well as I am," said Benjamin Merica, 45, who said the collision left him with two broken vertebrae.

Merica, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was crossing the intersection of Ridge Road and W.Va. 9 when his S-10 pickup truck and a Ford Taurus driven by Terri Bennet of Berkeley Springs, W.Va., collided, Senior Trooper M.M. Kingery of the West Virginia State Police said.

Bennet was treated at City Hospital in Martinsburg and released, police said.

Merica coaches baseball and girls basketball at Hedgesville High and is the Eagles' assistant football coach.

After the accident, Merica at first thought he was having a muscle spasm similar to those he suffered during his wrestling days, only more severe, he said.

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Medics at the scene convinced him to go to City Hospital. He was transferred from there to Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va.

Doctors at Inova told him he had a "hangman's fracture," he said.

After treatment and being outfitted with a neck brace, Merica was sent home Monday afternoon.

"He's in pain but he should get better," his wife Cayla said.

Merica's doctor's told him his prognosis is good and with treatment he may be back at work by the end of the month, Merica said.

However, the accident ruined his school attendance record, he said.

In 23-years of teaching he had taken only 3 1/2 sick days, each time when the flu hit him hard, he said.

The intersection has been an unlucky one for the Mericas.

Two years ago Merica's daughter was in an accident at the intersection, and sustained a minor neck injury, he said.

After his return home from the hospital, Merica received a visit from members of the girls basketball team and other friends have called and stopped by, he said.

Merica said he was touched by their concern.

Cayla Merica said her husband was keeping his spirits up despite being immobilized.

"Being a coach he's impatient, but we're very fortunate and thankful he's with us," she said.

Police were continuing to investigate the accident. Anyone with information may call West Virginia State Police at 304-267-0001.

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