Year after motorcycle wreck, North Charleston firefighter again fights for life
Enjoying time off as a North Charleston firefighter, Darin Kingery was riding home from the Myrtle Beach Bike Week in May 2012 when his motorcycle crashed.
He suffered life-threatening injuries. A helicopter flew him from the Georgetown crash site to a hospital, where he was hooked to machines that helped him breathe.
He spent weeks under doctors’ care and endured months of rehabilitation, but he pulled through. Earlier this year, he returned to duty as an engineer with the North Charleston Fire Department.
But the 35-year-old Kingery again is fighting for his life.
He was working at a crash scene in North Charleston earlier this month when an allegedly drunken man, who was in the country illegally, drove a Honda into him and five others.
His leg broken in several places, and an infection spread through the limb in the days after the June 8 injury. On Tuesday, doctors at Medical University Hospital amputated part of the leg to stop the disease and save Kingery’s life.
He was stabilized but still sedated Wednesday.
“Hopefully, he’s out of danger,” said Gerald Mishoe, who leads the nonprofit Lowcountry Firefighter Support Team. “We’re hoping and praying he gets through this latest crisis. ... He’s had more pain and suffering than anyone deserves to ever have.”
The man accused of causing the ordeal, 26-year-old Felix Garcia-Romero of Hawthorne Drive in North Charleston, remains in jail. He faces three counts of felony driving under the influence because two other people also were severely hurt.
Garcia-Romero did not enter the United States legally.
He’s a Mexican citizen. Vincent Picard, a regional spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, couldn’t discuss the case any further.
If Garcia-Romero is convicted of the three charges, he could face up to 45 years in prison.
“Whether he does any time or if he’s sentenced, he’ll have to serve that,” Picard said. “Then he’ll come into ICE custody.”
Three 18-year-old women and a 16-year-old girl also were hurt in the crash, which was caught by a police car’s camera. Another firefighter suffered a minor injury.
The video showed Garcia-Romero stumbling through the scene on Ashley Phosphate Road and mumbling to a North Charleston police officer. He said he had consumed only two beers that night.
A 12-year veteran of the North Charleston Fire Department, Kingery lay on the pavement for several minutes as paramedics tended to him while Garcia-Romero was arrested.
Garcia-Romero didn’t have a driver’s license or insurance.
Like others hurt in the incident, Kingery likely will face medical bills and other expenses as he heals. Fire Department spokeswoman Bianca Sancic said officials were developing a way to help Kingery, who has children and a wife, Beth. The details hadn’t been sorted out, she said.
“He remains in critical condition,” Sancic said. “So right now, we’re focusing on supporting him and his family during the recovery process.”
Kingery also suffered critical injuries in the motorcycle wreck May 21, 2012, in Georgetown. But the next day, doctors removed him from a ventilator, and he started talking.
This time, firefighters are maintaining a 24-hour vigil outside his room in the intensive care unit at Medical University Hospital, said Mishoe, the support team leader.
Off-duty firefighters chip in at his Goose Creek home by mowing the grass or doing other manual labor.
Through Facebook, friends and co-workers rallied more help. Kingery recently moved into a new home, where tasks such as painting and unpacking needed to be done, they said.
Contacted Wednesday, several of those people declined to discuss their efforts. But Mishoe said fellow firefighters will help Kingery pull through, just as they did when he was hospitalized last year.
“The folks in the fire department have really stepped up,” Mishoe said. “He’s a good guy. He’s a family man. He’s one of us.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.