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Teen Hurt While Helping Motorist

October 5, 1999

CHICAGO (AP) _ David Benoit’s impulse to help a stranded motorist forever altered his life: The 17-year-old now spends his days trying to regain the life he had before his leg was amputed and his pelvis fractured.

``I’m just trying to get through it so I can walk again,″ Benoit said Monday from his bed at Christ Hospital.

Benoit was driving to work Sept. 23 when he saw Debbie Vetter standing on the side of a suburban Chicago roadway, staring blankly at her stalled car’s motor.

He pulled his truck behind her car and turned on his hazard lights because hers weren’t working, then walked back to check his own flashers.

``All I heard was a thud and I looked in the rear view mirror and saw his truck moving forward,″ Vetter said. A car had rear-ended Benoit’s truck, pinning him between the two vehicles.

The driver of the car who struck Benoit was ticketed for failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. But Vetter said she can’t help feeling partly responsible.

``When it happened, I thought, ’Oh, my gosh, it could’ve been me,‴ she said. ``I call him my guardian angel.″

Vetter is planning a fund-raiser for Benoit next month and established a bank account to accept donations. ``There’s going to be a lot of things he needs that insurance won’t cover,″ she said.

Doctors say Benoit should be able to walk in three months with the help of an artificial leg.

``He is very strong and very determined _ he’s just a hard worker _ so I know he’ll work hard at this too,″ said his mother, Jeannine Benoit.

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