Monday, February 4, 2008

Kid Gets Replacement Helmet

The St. Pete Times has the tale of the bicycle helmet that saved the life of a kid in Largo. Seems like guys who drive motorcycles might want to don a helmet, too.

LARGO -- Sixth grader Johathon Ferland got quite a reception Monday, his first day back at school after being injured in a bizarre accident last week.

Officials from various city and community agencies honored the 11-year-old Largo Middle School student for wearing a bicycle helmet. The black Razor helmet probably saved Johnathon's life after a pole fell on his head, police officials say.

Largo police chief Lester Aradi praised Johnathon for making good decisions. "We have too many examples of people who did things the wrong way, with tragic consequences," he said. Johnathon is a good example of how paying attention and following the rules can keep kids safe, Aradi added.

Aradi gave Johnathon a new helmet and a certificate of recognition before honoring the crossing guards who attended to him before paramedics arrived that afternoon.

On Jan. 29, Johnathon was standing with his bicycle and waiting to cross at the corner of Clearwater-Largo Road and Eighth Ave. SW. A truck in a nearby parking lot rolled down an embankment and knocked down two poles. The first sign struck Johnathon on the neck, slicing it near a major artery. It required 22 stitches to close the gash, Johnathon said.

The second pole, a 40-pound walk signal pole, him him on top of the head, causing a mild concussion.

Johnathon said he was still sore from the accident, which strengthened his resolve to always wear his helmet. Clad in a blue jersey with bruises still visible on his face, Johnathon said that a lot of kids don't wear helmets because they think it makes them look "uncool." But Johnathon agreed with Marcy Tilmann, the founder of a nonprofit group that gives free helmets to kids who pledge to wear them. Tilmann's adult son wasn't wearing a helmet when he died in a skateboarding accident in 2005.

"You made a cool decision to wear a helmet," Tilmann told Johnathon after presenting him with another new helmet, an extreme sports model. Johnathon was also recognized by Largo city commissioner Rodney Woods and All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, where he was transported after the accident.

Johnathon said he was feeling lucky since the incident. His bike survived intact, and he has a bag full of goodies to take home from the ceremony, including an autographed bat and two free tickets to a spring training baseball game, courtesy of the Clearwater Threshers. And it didn't hurt that the team he was rooting for just happened to pull out a Super Bowl victory the night before, he said.

"Go, Giants!" Johnathon said before heading back to class.

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