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Hit by bus, vet cheats death again

March 04, 2007|Rona Marech | The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — Danny Lloyd was hit by a rocket and a mortar round while serving in Vietnam, and to this day, he can't go through an airport metal detector because of the shrapnel lodged in his body.

Still struggling with his Vietnam demons in 1984, Lloyd got into a bar fight, during which he was stabbed in the chest. Police later accused him of assaulting several patrons, attempting to kill one man with a knife and shooting at another. He eventually served time after pleading guilty to some of the charges.

He has seen a lot in 57 years of hard living, and Friday he added one more item to the long list of things that could have killed him but didn't: A bus hurtled off a Georgia highway overpass and hit his pickup, killing six people on the bus and injuring 29. But he escaped basically unscathed.

"I've had just about anything they could throw at me thrown at me," Lloyd of Frostburg, Md., said via cellphone. "But it's the first time a bus jumped off the interstate at me."

The charter bus, which was carrying the baseball team from Ohio's Bluffton University, plunged off a bridge outside Atlanta early Friday, slamming into Lloyd's truck and the pavement below.

Lloyd, retired from the military on disability, normally would have been in Florida, where he and his wife usually spend most of the winter. But he had taken a few weeks to visit his 24-year-old son and attend a party in Ohio organized by his Vietnam veterans motorcycle club. The club holds a gathering every year on the anniversary of the Tet offensive to memorialize fellow soldiers and, he said, "to reflect on how lucky we was to make it back."

Lloyd likes to drive at night, when there are fewer cars on the road, so about midnight Thursday, after dining with a friend, he left Cincinnati. Ten miles outside Atlanta, he stopped to fuel up.

He was emerging from under an overpass on Interstate 75 when he saw something dark dropping from the sky. At first, he thought it was a piece of concrete from an old bridge.

The black shape, which he later figured was part of the bus, hit his roof and windshield. His front bumper tore off.

The van behind him also was hit. The back of it was squashed like a pancake, he said. When he saw the bus later, it seemed as if it had been squeezed to about half its original width.

Soon, police and paramedics arrived. Baseball players were walking around as if in a daze.

Lloyd says he was in a daze too. It takes a while, he said, to get your composure back. Then again, after two tours in Vietnam, he's used to tragedy.

"You learn to grieve real fast," he said. "Stuff like what happened today. And a lot of stuff that happened in Vietnam. You put it in that lockbox in the back of your head."

Eventually, after he answered investigators' questions, he got into his truck and because the vehicle had only cosmetic damage, he drove off. He had plans to spend a few hours in a motel, then to hit the road to get back to Florida.

"I'm tired," he said. "I'm just sort of blank."

The hard part is knowing about the lives that were lost or forever changed.

"It all makes a big, vicious circle," he said. "You gotta be born, and you gotta die sometime."

But evidently, he said, Friday wasn't his day.

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