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Help sought for girl's medical bills

Hospital costs mount to $100,000 after rollover accident

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2001

Fund-raising efforts are under way to help the family of Ashley Herrin, the 17-year-old girl injured in a rollover accident on Aug. 3 near Mile 21 Glacier Highway.

Herrin, the daughter of Tim and Kathy DeHart of Juneau, was a passenger in the 1998 Ford Bronco II at the time of the accident. She was ejected from the car after it swerved to avoid a vehicle attempting to make a left turn onto Cohen Drive, and was thrown about 70 feet, family members said.

"Doctors keep telling them how lucky they are. She broke every bone that should have paralyzed her, but she's not," said Tracy Foster, a longtime family friend who is coordinating fund-raising efforts. "They just can't even believe that she's alive in the condition she was in."

Herrin suffered seven fractures in her back, two broken upper neck bones, two brain contusions, several broken ribs, bruises and cuts from her neck to her tailbone, and two deep wounds that required plastic surgery. She was airlifted on Aug. 3 to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she is recovering.

"There's no paralysis," Tim DeHart said. "We were just so lucky. She's in a ... brace and a halo for the next three months for sure and then they'll do follow-up X-rays. What's in her favor is she's young and that makes a big difference."

Herrin suffered some memory loss and is just beginning to recall the accident, Foster added.

After plastic surgery is completed, Herrin will stay with relatives in Washington and undergo CAT scans, MRIs and other forms of follow-up treatment. The family has insurance for up to $200,000 in medical bills, but treatment costs already have passed the $100,000 mark.

Financial donations are being collected at the Eagle and Moose lodges, the Sandbar and any one of the Alaska USA Federal Credit Union locations. Checks should be made out to the Ashley Herrin Fund, and can be mailed to the Ashley Herrin Fund at the Alaska Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 196613, Anchorage, AK. 99519.

Alaska Airline upgrades or mileage also can be contributed. Every 12 upgrades will allow the family to purchase a round-trip ticket for $250, and the minimum transfer of 20,000 miles is equivalent to a round-trip ticket anywhere Alaska Airlines flies.

The DeHarts are longtime local residents, and Herrin has worked as a cashier at Super Bear Supermarket. She attends Haines High School, where she was a cheerleader.

The teen-agers were not wearing seat belts, said Tim DeHart.

"Kids out there need to take a hard look at this," he added. "She's terrified to even get in a car now. ... It's her senior year, the prom. It's kind of a crushing blow for her."

The Juneau Police Department had no new comment on the accident, which Capt. Tom Porter said is still under investigation. The driver of the vehicle, identified by police as 24-year-old Cameron Harris, was treated at Bartlett Regional Hospital on Aug. 3 and released.

The third passenger, an 18-year-old man, sustained trauma to the skull and was airlifted to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage on Aug. 3. His parents, who previously requested that no information on his condition be released, were not available for comment.

Genevieve Gagne-Hawes can be reached at geneviev@juneauempire.com.



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