Saturday, August 05, 2000

Thrown concrete injures Hamilton man


Incident most serious in string of similar crimes

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — John Gentile was driving a familiar route — north on Kenworth Avenue near Franklin Street to take a friend home — when he suddenly felt overwhelming numbness in his forehead, and noticed a gaping hole in his truck's windshield.

[photo] John Gentile had extensive surgery to after being hit in the head with a piece of concrete.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        “That's all I can remember,” he said. “I didn't know what happened. My friend thought we'd been shot at.”

        Someone had hurled a chunk of concrete, possibly from atop a backhoe that was being used for road repairs. . The result: a near-fatal injury for Mr. Gentile, 52.

        “They might have thought it was funny or something, but I have the best surgeons up here and they're all telling me I'm lucky to be alive,” said Mr. Gentile as he was released Friday from Bethesda North Hospital, ending nine days of hospitalization — six of them in intensive care. “The doctors are telling me if it had hit me anywhere else, it would've killed me.”

        Hamilton police on Thursday arrested a 17-year-old boy in connection with the July 27 incident that hurt Mr. Gentile — the most serious in a string of similar recent crimes thought to have been committed by juveniles.

        “A week or two before this happened, I had called 911 to tell the police that kids were throwing things at cars on Kenworth,” said Mr. Gentile's wife, Cyndi, 49. “I saw them throw it and it scared me because I thought, "Oh my God, they're going to hit somebody.' I never dreamed that "somebody' would be my husband.”

        About five minutes before Mr. Gentile was injured, Heather Farnham, 22, and her husband were driving southbound on Kenworth when their car was struck. “It came from out of nowhere. We didn't see it for even a second. It slammed us — hard,” she said. “The whole windshield shattered. It was really scary.”

        Ms. Farnham said she kept driving, fearing that the vehicle would be bombarded.

        “We got out of there,” she said, so they never found out what type of object hit their vehicle.

        Ms. Farnham later learned about Mr. Gentile's injury. “I wonder if the kids or whoever are doing it realize what danger they're putting other people in, just for their entertainment or whatever,” she said.

        While being treated in the emergency room of Fort Hamilton Hospital — Mr. Gentile's forehead was caved in from the impact, and he was covered in glass and blood — “he just kept saying, "You don't know how bad my pain is,' and he was thrashing around,” Mrs. Gentile said.

        Mr. Gentile, who suffered a tear in the lining of his brain, was transferred to Bethesda, where surgeons spent five hours repairing that damage and reconstructing his forehead and sinus passages.

        “I was afraid I was going to have to take him home in a wheelchair,” Mrs. Gentile said. “Thank goodness it wasn't any worse. It would have destroyed the rest of his life. And that kid who did this is lucky, too. If what he did would have killed someone, his life would have been ruined, too.”

        Mr. Gentile, a laborer at International Paper, faces months of recuperation and probably more surgeries.

        Officer Dave Crawford, Hamilton police spokesman, said police several months ago arrested juveniles for dropping or throwing objects at vehicles in other parts of the city, and officers are continuing their investigation of the problems on Kenworth.

        Meanwhile, Mrs. Gentile said she wants to warn others: “People have got to be aware that this could happen anywhere. The kids who are doing this are thinking they're just going to be damaging some vehicles — but there are human beings in moving vehicles.” The Enquirer/MICHAEL SNYDER John Gentile's truck was hit with a concrete block.

       



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