By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ATTORNEY Fred Smith is recovering in a European hospital after surviving a near fatal paragliding accident in Italy on Sunday that required five-hour surgery.
While paragliding in the Dolomite mountains of the Italian Alps, he dislocated and shattered his left ankle, broke his left tibia, dislocated and sliced his right ankle and broke two vertebrae.
“I’ve had surgery and they saved my life, as well as my left foot which has been reattached to my left leg and pinned together,” he said in a statement to The Tribune yesterday. “I must rest and protect against infection and necrosis of the talus. I’m in the hospital in Bolzano, Italy and being well taken care of. My surgeon recommends that I stay at the hospital for at least another ten days.”
Mr Smith, 63, was celebrating his birthday.
“My greatest risk now is that I might get an infection and or necrosis in the talus bone which the tibia sits on,” he said. “As a result of the accident the talus was completely exposed and therefore may have gotten infected. In addition the talus doesn’t have many vascular elements and so the risk of necrosis therefore also arises. So this is now a wait-and-see game in the short-term. If the heel heals, all will be good with just a substantial limitation in the range of motion. I will then only be able to do half marathons! If it does not heal, then they will have to amputate my talus, which will bring more complications.”
Mr Smith, who said he initially planned to hike, do yoga, meditate and get massages on his trip before a hotel concierge told him about paragliding, said his instructor was injured during the glide and that the two fell from a very high altitude.
“It may have been the sudden thermal that collapsed our parachute and we free fell,” he said. “Probably the only reason we’re alive is that we were lucky enough on the way down to have been blown hard against a cliff where we clung on until some hikers managed to get to us and helped to hold us up until a rescue helicopter airlifted us out. The helicopter had to hover above us as it lowered two medics to us and put us in body bags and pulled us up. I was so glad that the line and hook on the helicopter didn’t break as we were taken off the cliff side. We were 9,000 feet up.”
Mr Smith said he was consumed by shock and didn’t feel much pain at first as his tibia bone broke and protruded and his left foot bled and dangled.
He said his surgery lasted five hours.
“Flying commercial is not an option and flying at all in the condition that I’m in now isn’t appropriate because of the continuing care that I need,” he said. “I will be missing in action for a little.”
The well-known lawyer has been at the centre of fierce debates about immigration policy in the country, recently saying the government cannot take away the property rights of Abaco’s shanty town residents.