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Missing Son Found Comatose in Hospital

February 08, 1988|JIM CARLTON | Times Staff Writer

The last thing David Harney told his parents Friday night was that he would be home in a few hours after visiting a friend at the nearby campus of El Toro High School.

When the 17-year-old youth failed to return that night or Saturday morning, his parents, James and Pamela Harney, filed a missing persons report with local police. On Sunday, they began calling local hospitals. They found their son--comatose and critically injured--after dialing but one.

Harney was still listed in critical condition late Sunday at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center. He had been injured at 7:30 p.m. Friday when he was struck by a pickup truck while being towed on his skateboard by another youth across busy Trabuco Road at Ridge Route Drive.

As the boy was halfway across the thoroughfare, he froze at the sight of a truck bearing down on him in the dimly lit intersection, California Highway Patrol officers said. The truck struck him and knocked him to the pavement. A second vehicle then ran over his legs, fracturing them, the officers said.

Officials said identification of the victim was made difficult because the second youth who was pulling Harney across the highway on a rope fled the scene of the accident. He had not been located as of late Sunday.

Hospital and CHP officials had tried all weekend to identify the victim by bringing in local high school principals and Boy Scout leaders to see him in the intensive care unit. The victim's identity remained unknown until 2 p.m. Sunday, when James Harney placed his call.

"I asked if they had an unidentified teen-age boy and they said they did," a visibly shaken Harney, 57, said at the family's El Toro home late Sunday afternoon.

Mission Hospital officials said the case demonstrates the need for parents to make sure their children have some form of identification on them when they leave the house.

Mission Hospital nursing supervisor Sue Donofrio said it is difficult for emergency room personnel to track down next of kin since many youngsters do not have fingerprints on file and do not have driver's license identification.

She suggested that youngsters wear identification bracelets.

CHP officials said the accident once again highlights the dangers youngsters face in riding skateboards on busy city streets.

"It's very hazardous--especially when being towed on a rope," said a CHP radio dispatcher in Santa Ana.

James Harney, a teacher, said his son had been a skateboarding enthusiast for several years. Three years ago, he said, his son broke a wrist in another skateboard accident. After recovering from that injury, Harney said, his son relied upon his skateboard for daily transportation.

The teen-ager told his parents he was going out for a while Friday evening to meet with a friend at El Toro High School, which he attended before recently passing a state proficiency examination and getting his high school diploma.

David Harney has been looking for a job and had planned to attend junior college classes.

His parents said that when he failed to return home by Saturday morning, they were not overly concerned, because he had stayed out all night before. However, when he still did not show by Saturday night, the family filed a missing persons report with the Sheriff's Department.

On Sunday--fearing the worst--James Harney said he decided to start calling the local hospitals. After being told that a boy matching his son's description was at Mission Hospital, he said he immediately drove down and identified him.

The family was stunned.

"Of course, they (his parents) were just devastated because they didn't know where he was," said the boy's grandmother, Naomi Liggett, who had been helping prepare a family celebration for the youth's 18th birthday Tuesday. "It's horrible, but he is alive."

Harney said doctors told him the boy did not have any apparent brain damage or spinal injury, although his legs and pelvic bones are fractured, and he remained unconscious.

"They're hopeful he will come out of this," Harney said.

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