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Teenager recovering from spill on track

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| May 19, 2009 12:00 AM

A Libby teenager was released from a Spokane, Wash. hospital Wednesday after suffering a head injury from a dirt bike accident in Libby on Sunday.

Joe Cherry, 16, was moved out of the intensive care unit Monday night, but stayed under the hospital’s care for observation until his release.

He suffered bleeding in his brain, but doctors predict a full recovery, according to his sister Sommer Hawver.

Cherry was practicing on the Mill Pond Motocross Track on Sunday evening when he lost control of his dirt bike and was thrown off. No one witnessed the crash, but based on his injuries, he probably landed on his left shoulder and head, said Ron Hawver, who accompanied Cherry at the track.

Cherry was attempting to hurdle over a series of four small jumps, but the bike’s back end didn’t quite clear the last jump, Ron Hawver said.

Immediately after the accident, Cherry suffered a seizure, a common effect of head trauma.

“It was really scary. I’d never seen anything like that,” Ron Hawver said. “His eyeballs were rolling in the back of his head, his body was tightening up and he was gurgling.”

He called 911 at 6:05 p.m., and Libby Volunteer Ambulance was on scene within five minutes. He was transported to St. John’s Lutheran Hospital and then airlifted to Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane.

Cherry was drowsy and not quite himself until Wednesday, said his sister, who stayed with him at the hospital with their mother.

Sommer Hawver predicts that the injuries would have been worse if Cherry hadn’t been wearing his protective gear – a track requirement – of a helmet, chest protector and neck brace.

“If he hadn’t had it on he would have broke his neck,” she said. “There’s so many kids that drive (their dirt bikes) in the woods and just have baseball caps on, but accidents do happen.”

The CT scan Wednesday revealed that the blood in Cherry’s brain was clearing up.

“He’s ready to go home,” Sommer Hawver said Wednesday. 

Ron Hawver accompanies Cherry to the track about three days per week and as a strong advocate of Motocross, he doesn’t want to see the sport given a bad name because of the accident.

“It keeps him out of trouble,” he said. “That’s why we do it.”

Cherry told his family that he is planning to get right back on his dirt bike.

“He’s ready to go home and go right back to practicing,” Sommer Hawver said, “but the doctors will probably make him not bike for at least a month to make sure everything heals properly.”