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San Gabriel Valley Digest

Arcadia : Pilot's Finger Reattached

September 09, 1993

An Arcadia pilot who brought his ultra-light down on a busy highway in Riverside County and lost part of his finger in the propeller while directing traffic around the plane is recovering at home after surgery.

Robert Dentice, 62, was released Tuesday after surgery Monday to reattach a portion of his right index finger at Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia.

Dentice and his friend, Raymond Britton, took off Monday morning from the Lake Riverside area south of Hemet in two ultra-lights, which resemble motorized hang gliders, authorities said.

Dentice had engine trouble and, because of the rugged terrain, had to land on Highway 371, which was packed with Labor Day holiday traffic, said Sgt. Nick Gnatek of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Dentice landed safely and began trying to push the ultra-light off the road. But as he waved passing cars around it, the still-whirling propeller cut off his right index finger above the second knuckle, Gnatek said.

Britton tried to land to help his friend, but wound up crashing in nearby brush. He was unhurt.

The two men searched for Dentice's finger but were unable to find it, so they flagged down a passing car that took them to a fire station four miles away, where Dentice received first aid.

The men then got a ride to Sharp Healthcare in Murrieta, about 20 miles away.

Meanwhile, witnesses at the crash site found Dentice's finger, which was relayed by a series of sheriff's deputies to the Murrieta hospital.

Another pilot friend then flew Dentice and his finger to Arcadia for the surgery, authorities said.

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