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Motorcyclist's recovery slow after crash with skateboarder

By Seth Burkett
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2355

Christopher Lee Smith faces a long road to recovery following the wreck that killed a skateboarding teenager and sent Smith to the hospital, a relative said Wednesday.

The 28-year-old Athens resident apparently flew over the handlebars of his motorcycle face-first into the pavement on Looney Road in the Jan. 8 collision, said Holly Haggermaker of Athens.

"He broke every bone in his face," said Haggermaker, who announced Wednesday the start of a fund to help pay her cousin's mounting medical bills.

"He's had more than 50 screws in his face and 16 plates in his face. They've also got his mouth wired shut. He's on a feeding tube, and they said he'll be on that for six months to a year, and it'll be two years before he can work again."

Smith ran a home siding business prior to the accident, Haggermaker said.

No medical insurance

He and his 27-year-old wife, Claire, who broke her leg in the accident, have no medical insurance and a seven-week old son, Brody.

Donations to the Carolyn J. Kelley Benefit for Chris Smith may be made at any First American Bank location, said Cheryl McCorkle, the bank vice-president of human resources.

Checks should be made payable to the name of the fund.

The death of 13-year-old Clinton Kirby Roberts ignited discussion about skateboarding safety and reopened talks about creating a skate park in Athens.

The Elkmont High School student was skating on the roadway and not wearing a helmet, state troopers said.

Haggermaker said the toll on the Smith family has been overshadowed by other events surrounding the wreck.

Her aunt received phone calls from people alleging Smith was drunk at the time of the accident, she said.

"People have been calling her home all day saying he was drinking and driving. Chris does not drink. He does not do drugs. People are starting nasty rumors. We want this to stop," she said.

Alabama State Trooper spokesman Curtis Summerville responded to the accusations against Smith on Wednesday.

"If he had been drunk, we would have charged him with driving under the influence, especially in this type of collision. If he has not been charged, then he was not under the influence. I have not even heard that DUI was ever suspected," Summerville said.

Troopers said a pedestrian violation contributed to the accident, indicating Roberts scooted into the path of the southbound motorcycle.

"He didn't mean to hit that little boy. He is a good person. He is great friend, a great husband and a great father. He is one of the sweetest people you'd ever meet," Haggermaker said.

At present, Haggermaker said, Smith is unaware of rumors surrounding the wreck.

Smith improved from critical to fair condition and was transferred from the neurological intensive care unit to a room at Huntsville Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said Wednesday.

"At times he's alert. Sometimes he isn't. He's in a lot of pain, as you can imagine," Haggermaker said.

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