It was the summer of 2011 when Marine Gunnery Sgt. David Smith was out riding his motorcycle, not too far away from his home in San Diego, California, when something unexpected happened— an SUV viciously rear-ended the decorated marine. He was launched onto the hood of the car and then into the street. The driver, seemingly upset, asked, “Is he dead?” before fleeing the scene and leaving the victim internally decapitated.

That Horrific Day of 2011

Smith had been to several tours of duty that were nowhere near safe in Iraq and Afghanistan. His mother had to enlist him when he was 17, as that’s what he’d always wanted to do. He also once survived a roadside bomb attack while on duty. For all his actions, he was presented the Bronze Star for valor. On that unfortunate day, the 34-year-old Marine Corps veteran was eastbound on Bernardo Center Drive near West Bernardo Drive, around 12:30 in the afternoon. He was waiting at a red light when Jessica Marie Bloom, who was driving her Chevrolet TrailBlazer, hit him from behind. When all was done, and Smith was lying on the road, unconscious, she got out of her vehicle, upset, “Is he dead?” and then picked up her front bumper that detached due to the impact before she drove off. She was followed by witnesses and would later be reported to the police.

Accident site. (We Are The Mighty)

Smith, unbeknownst yet to those who were around, was partially decapitated internally, his cervical bones shattered and his spinal cord was extensively damaged, and he was bleeding internally. That was apart from his lacerated kidney and liver that all combined to render him temporarily paralyzed. He was unresponsive when the medics arrived at the scene, so they initiated spinal-damage protocol to stabilize his neck and provided him with oxygen.

Internally Decapitated

His MRI would later reveal his head all but severed from from his body internally, and the doctors had to make sure that his spinal cord would not be damaged further. After ten days, he underwent a very complicated procedure that involved fusing three of his cervical vertebrae back together. However, at that period, they doubted if Smith would ever walk again.

But you can’t keep a good Marine down. After two days, he managed to take his first steps. What followed after was a painfully difficult physical therapy process. And his strength just did not fail him; after three weeks, although he was still suffering from double vision and lack of mobility in his neck, he was on his way out of the Palomar Medical Center, one of the few who survived an internal spinal decapitation.

A Very Poor Choice, Indeed

As for Bloom, who pleaded guilty to felony charges of DUI and hit-and-run, she asked for forgiveness for what she had done, saying the accident changed her life.

“I made a very poor choice to drink and drive,” Bloom said. “I’m so sorry for everything that happened. He was an innocent victim.”

And although Smith forgave her, he still thought it was a very selfish act, for her to drive off and leave him mangled and unconscious on the road. Bloom, who had a record in Indiana for driving under the influence a few years prior, was sentenced to four years and four months in prison.

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