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Impaled and still in pain, he sues

A trucker's weight falls from 150 to the 90s after his injury.

By COLLEEN JENKINS
Published April 27, 2007


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TAMPA - Trucker Douglas Koceja survived 18 years on the road without injury.

Then a mundane part of his job changed everything.

On Sept. 25, Koceja pronounced Co-CHEE-ah went to a concrete manufacturer in Green Cove Springs to pick up a semitrailer truck headed for Birmingham.

He climbed on the flatbed rig to chain down the load. But he slipped and fell backward, landing on a 54-inch-long piece of rebar that rose unprotected from a piece of concrete.

The rod impaled him vertically through his torso, piercing his bowel, intestines, colon, stomach and liver.

This is going to be bad, he remembers thinking. Adrenaline somehow allowed him to pull himself off the rebar. He screamed for someone to call 911.

"That's basically all I remember until I woke up at the hospital," Koceja said Thursday.

Earlier this week, he and his wife sued Hanson Pipe & Precast, one of the largest manufacturers of concrete products on the continent.

The Pinellas Park High graduate accused the company of failing to protect him and other drivers from unsafe conditions.

An attorney for Hanson Pipe did not return a call for comment.

The Kocejas filed suit in Clay County, where the incident occurred. But the couple and their two children moved to St. Petersburg from Panama Beach City so Kimberly Ellis-Koceja could work at MacDill Air Force Base while her husband recuperated with his family nearby.

Douglas Koceja's medical bills total more than $1-million.

He went blind in his right eye because of blood loss and shock, his attorney said. He has a colostomy and an open abdominal wound that nurses tend to at his home twice a day.

His weight has plummeted from about 150 pounds to the 90s. He goes in and out of Tampa General Hospital, battling infection.

W. Marc Hardesty of Jacksonville, Koceja's attorney, has seen his share of tough cases.

But this, he said, "is the worst, most horrific injury I've ever dealt with."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at (813) 226-3337 or cjenkins@sptimes.com.

[Last modified April 27, 2007, 00:45:34]


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