Hunting Accident File > Safe Hunting?: > 2008

OR - Hunting accident victim still recovering

Former student Jesse McLaughlin remains paralyzed below the neck four months later

By: Jill Kimball
Posted: 3/3/08

Four and a half months after a Veneta man accidentally shot him in the forest of Lane County, 21-year-old former University student Jesse Solomon McLaughlin still rests in a clinic bed unable to move anything below his neck.

On the afternoon of Oct. 13 last year, McLaughlin and some friends from work were out paintballing in the woods where Derek Eli Madsen, 29, was hunting with his own friends. Madsen spotted McLaughlin in the bushes and, mistakenly thinking he was an animal, pointed his small caliber rifle and fired a single shot into McLaughlin's neck.

When Madsen rushed to the scene and found out he had shot McLaughlin, he "threw his hands up and started screaming," said Jonathan Beckenhauer, one of McLaughlin's coworkers at the International House of Pancakes who went paintballing with him that day.

Related Links
"McLaughlin celebrates 21st in Sacred Heart," 10.26.07
"Student shot by hunter while out paintballing," 10.16.07

When paramedics arrived, Madsen was "lying in a ditch in the fetal position crying 'I didn't mean it' over and over again," said longtime family friend Victor Rozek in a letter to The Register-Guard published on Nov. 25.

"It's an example of how unfair life can be" on both sides of the picture, Rozek said.

McLaughlin was taken to Sacred Heart Medical Center and stayed there for more than two months in critical condition. He was transferred to the intensive care unit at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland for a week to be closer to his family, and he now resides at the Rehabilitation Institute of Oregon, according to his brother Isaac McLaughlin.

"Day-to-day progress is hard to see sometimes with an injury like this," Isaac McLaughlin said. "But from day one until now, it is amazing how far he has come." McLaughlin still needs a ventilator to breathe properly, but "the only thing holding him back from being able to speak, eat and swallow is that a muscle in his throat will not relax on its own," his brother said. "Specialists are working on a solution for that as we speak."

Thanks to extensive therapy at RIO, McLaughlin is now able to drive a wheelchair with the pressure and vacuum he creates through a straw.

Friends and family visit McLaughlin often and have managed to stay positive, although it is unlikely that he will ever regain feeling below his neck.

"Doctors and specialists have told many people they will never walk or move again in their life and they have been wrong," Isaac McLaughlin said. "We are hoping with time that we see changes in the positive direction."

Beckenhauer hasn't talked to McLaughlin's mother Melissa for about a month, but he said he and his brother Todd, who was also present when Madsen fired the shot, still think about McLaughlin often.

"We were becoming pretty good friends," Beckenhauer said.

Even Jesse McLaughlin himself has stayed positive despite his physical disabilities resulting from the injury.

"He can still find humor and joy in life," Rozek said. "I've never heard him talk about wanting vengeance for the person who shot him."

On Dec. 7, Madsen pleaded not guilty to two charges, one a felony for hunting from a vehicle and the other an assault with a firearm. Madsen was released and is out of custody, but is scheduled to appear again in court on April 2.

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Copyright 2008 Oregon Daily Emerald 

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