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They never thought he'd live

Nearly 13 weeks after the 11-year-old flew 35 feet through the air to land headfirst on the pavement, David Anthony Herring is able to thank his rescuers.

By TERESA BURNEY, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2002

Nearly 13 weeks after the 11-year-old flew 35 feet through the air to land headfirst on the pavement, David Anthony Herring is able to thank his rescuers.

RIDGE MANOR -- The paramedics had little hope as they watched the emergency helicopter take off into the night sky with 11-year-old David Anthony Herring aboard.

The boy had flown 35 feet through the air after a car hit him and he smashed headfirst into the pavement of State Road 50.

Paramedics and emergency medical technicians had pumped air into his lungs through a tube down his throat, dumped fluid into his veins through the biggest needle they had and cradled his bleeding head gently as they strapped him to a board and loaded him onto the helicopter.

Still, they thought it would not be be enough.

"We left the scene thinking he was going to die," said Bill Walke, a firefighter and emergency medical technician.

Last Wednesday, nearly 13 weeks after the accident, David Anthony and his father, David Lee Herring, rang the doorbell at Hernando County Fire Rescue Station 22 in Ridge Manor.

Anthony wanted to thank and hug those who had come to his aid that evening after he unknowingly walked into the path of a car.

The rescue workers were shocked.

"It was unbelieveable, said Tony Carollo, one of several rescue workers at the scene. "He is a miracle kid."

David Anthony agrees. It had everything to do with miracles and nothing to do with luck, he insists.

"Luck is not Jesus," the boy told the paramedics during a second reunion Saturday.

"It had to be God because I didn't do that," Carollo said, looking at David Anthony, amazed.

"I can tell he still has some neurological problems," said Theresia Gibson, a volunteer rescue worker who happened by the accident within moments after it happened. "But he's walking. He's talking. He knows people. He knows things. I didn't think he would ever come out of it."

David Anthony and his family were at the Ridge Manor Community Center on March 28, getting ready to perform in an Easter play at Courts of Praise Church. The church rents the community center for its services.

The church's youth had been standing on the north side of State Road 50, holding up signs advertising the play. Then they headed across the street when it was time for the play to begin. David Anthony was last, and apparently was in a hurry to catch up when he stepped into the path of a car, his father said. He evidently never saw it.

"She (the driver) remembered seeing him smile. He was looking at his friends," he said.

The horrified westbound driver veered into the path of an oncoming semitrailer truck in a futile attempt to miss the boy. The semitrailer veered, too, narrowly avoiding the car.

Within minutes after the accident, Mike Lenoir, a Hernando County Emergency Medical Services captain, happened to drive by on his way to get a sandwich. Next, Gibson happened by. Lenoir worked to insert a tube down the boy's throat while Gibson cradled his head as still as possible to protect his spinal cord from damage as Lenoir struggled with the tube.

The emergency room doctor later told the Herring family that David Anthony surely would have died without such quick intervention.

David Anthony remembers nothing of the accident. But he is sure he went to heaven briefly afterward.

"I saw Jesus, and he gave me a hug," he said. He also saw his dead grandfather.

"Go back to your parents," they told him.

For days, the boy lay in St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa in a coma. It was seven days before his unseeing eyes opened. Slowly, his other functions returned, his father said.

On the 25th day after the accident, Herring looked down and told his son: "I love you."

To his amazement, the boy managed to answer back with a rudimentary version of "I love you."

David Anthony spent eight weeks in St. Joseph's and Tampa General hospitals before going back to the Ridge Manor home he shares with his father, his mother, Antonia, and his 15-year-old sister, Jessica, on May 23.

He continues to attend therapy sessions at Tampa General. The fifth-grader still has pain in his left side, trouble with short-term memory and reading, a golf-ball-sized bald spot on the back of his head, and a king-size scar running beneath his eyebrows, across his nose. But some of those injuries may get better with time, his father said.

David Anthony is happy to show off his physical improvements.

"Want to see me run?" he asked before sprinting across the fire station parking lot under the noon sun Saturday.

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