‘Saved by the belt’ : Mother, son narrowly escape death in horrific crash
Kyle Barnett - Mar 28, 2013
It was the 6th of May last year when Dorothy Compton and her 12-year-old son, Patrick Dennies, were driving to Metairie to get a cake for a double birthday celebration. The two were enjoying themselves on their drive up I-310. A song had just come on they both liked – "Country Girl (Shake It for Me)" by Luke Bryan.
"Our song was on. Pretty much we were singing," Compton said.
"We were jamming," Dennies said with a smile.
The two were looking forward to the celebration, which included a crawfish boil.
And then as Compton prepared to make the turn onto I-10 eastbound toward the city in her late model Ford Mustang, a semi truck made a sharp shift into their lane.
"He was going to Baton Rouge and he waited until the last second," Compton said.
Compton saw the truck closing in on her car and hit the gas and honked her horn to try and avoid an accident, but it was too late.
"I was awake the whole time throughout the whole crash and the bouncing off the walls and hitting him several times," Compton said.
The much larger truck sandwiched their car into a barrier wall crunching it until it was unrecognizable.
When the vehicles came to a halt Compton, who had not lost consciousness throughout the incident, began to assess the situation.
"The only thing that I was concerned of whenever everything was over with was just trying to find Patrick to make sure he was OK," Compton said.
She found herself in the backseat of the car and looked up to see Dennies in the front.
"He was laying there and I could see him and his eyes were closed and there was blood," Compton said.
Dennies suffered deep facial lacerations in the accident. In addition, he had a severely broken leg, but the two were unaware just yet of how bad both of their injuries were.
"He’s laying there and he’s like ‘where are you?’ and I told him in the back seat and then that’s when he panicked," Compton said. "Even though he had the broken leg he started to crawl out of the vehicle because he wanted to get help for his momma."
Meanwhile Jay LaBorde, Compton’s longtime fiancé, heard about the accident.
"I pulled up with the second fire truck. I was on the scene the whole time," LaBorde said.
Although Dennies was able to crawl out of the car, firefighters and law enforcement officers had to use the "jaws of life" to cut out Compton, who had life threatening injuries.
"They took her by helicopter," LaBorde said. "I pretty much stayed at the hospital with her every day. And she was in the hospital until the end of June."
In the accident, Compton’s left leg was amputated below the knee, her right leg was severely broken and her pelvis and right shoulder were shattered. She also suffered severe nerve damage and received lacerations to her bladder.
Despite his mother’s wounds, her son had words of encouragement.
"You still have a pretty face," Dennies said.
"Yes, I do still have a pretty face. Thank you," Compton said.
Dennies, in addition to the facial wounds and broken leg, received a damaged cornea and may need a transplant in the future.
"He’s got a few more things that need to be done and he’s strong and he doesn’t let the scars really get to him," Compton said. "He even came up with his own nickname of ‘Scarface’ so no one could come up to him and make fun. He’s ‘Scarface’ - he’s a big mean man."
For a few months, both Dennies and Compton were confined to wheelchairs as they recovered as best as they could and went through physical therapy.
Dennies said despite being in a wheelchair he still managed to have fun.
"As soon as I was able to go outside me and my friend were flipping on the wheelchair. It was fun," he said.
Although Dennies is no longer in a wheelchair, Compton, who uses a prosthetic leg in public, uses one around the house.
"Every now and then he steals mine," Compton said. "He’ll get in it and race around the house in it like a toy."
After missing two months of school, Dennies still managed to keep up with his homework assignments and pass the LEAP test. During that time he went through nine different leg casts and wore a stabilizing boot. Now his leg is mostly healed.
Compton said seeing her son go through his recovery helped her with her own.
"He is my strength. Without him and my family it would have been a lot harder with the recovery," she said.
Now Dennies is turning his thoughts towards participating in sports again.
"I used to play baseball, but since the leg I haven’t been able to do much running. Maybe next year," he said.
Considering the severity of the accident, Compton and Dennies are lucky their injuries were limited to what they were.
In addition to wearing safety belts, Compton said she feels someone or something was looking out for them that day.
"I lost my brother one month before this car accident and I do believe that was our guardian angel," she said. "We just think about him, that we are here because of him and that seatbelt."
For their use of safety belts, they were presented last week with the "Saved by the Belt" award by the State Police Troop B and the Interim LSU Public Hospital, Level 1 Trauma Center.
Trooper Melissa Matey, spokesperson for Troop B, said the accident Compton and Dennies were in is an example of why people should wear their seat belts.
"Motor vehicle crashes are the single greatest cause of death and disability for people ages 1 to 34 and are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among people of all ages," Matey said. "Crashes can happen at any time, on any day and the only chance of surviving a horrific crash is to buckle up."
As the one year anniversary of their accident approaches, Compton said she is ready to have the party they never got to have last year.
"We will do it again," she said. "But this time I think I am going to send somebody else for the cake."
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