Smith, Wenzel continue recovery from accident



Six weeks after the car crash that killed four Yale students, Brett Smith ’06 and Eric Wenzel ’03, who were seriously injured in the accident, have moved from hospitals to rehabilitation centers.

Last week, Smith moved to a rehabilitation facility near his home in Nebraska, but he still suffers from brain swelling and has yet to regain his speech, Acting Ezra Stiles Master Traugott Lawler said. Jonathan Edwards Master Gary Haller said Wenzel is undergoing rehab and is expected to recover fully from the injuries he sustained in the accident. Cameron Fine ’06, Zachery Bradley ’05 and Christopher Gary ’06 were less seriously hurt in the crash and were released in the days following the accident.

The students were returning from a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity event in New York City on Jan. 17 when their car struck a jackknifed tractor-trailer, killing driver Sean Fenton ’04 and passengers Kyle Burnat ’05, Andrew Dwyer ’05 and Nicholas Grass ’05. The National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the crash is ongoing.

Lawler said Smith is now in Emmanuel Rehabilitation Hospital near his home in Nebraska. Last Monday, Smith was flown in a medical evaluation plane to Omaha.

Lawler said Smith spent three weeks in a coma and there is still some swelling in his brain. Smith cannot speak but can understand what is said to him and can communicate, he said.

“If you write a question on the blackboard and you put a yes or a no under it, he points to the yes or the no pretty accurately,” Lawler said.

Lawler said that with support, Smith can walk and sit upright. Because of the location of Smith’s brain injuries, he has less control over his left hand and arm.

“Probably it will take a long time of rehabilitation,” Lawler said. “The brain has to relearn how to make connections.”

But Lawler said officials at Norwalk Hospital were pleased with Smith’s progress.

“Nobody is sure if he will regain his speech, but it’s probable that he will,” Lawler said. “There’s a guarded sense of optimism.”

Haller said Wenzel is undergoing rehabilitation and his recovery is progressing. He said Wenzel was home for this weekend.

Wenzel suffered internal injuries, broken ribs, a broken collar bone and a facial fracture in the crash, Bridgeport Hospital officials said. Haller declined to comment specifically on Wenzel’s current condition.

“His parents are quite private about it,” Haller said. “They did not want much information to be made available.”

Haller said he is optimistic about Wenzel’s recovery.

“There’s every expectation that he will have a full recovery,” Haller said.

Fine said the effects of his concussion have disappeared and his vision has returned to normal. He said he is having surgery on his knee over spring break and is currently undergoing therapy for his shoulder.

Gary also continues to recover and has even started practicing with the football team again.

“My skull fracture hasn’t started to heal yet,” Gary said. “But I’m feeling great.”

Both Fine and Gary have returned to class.

Gary said, though, that Bradley has decided to take the semester off.

“He’s definitely progressing,” Gary said. “He looks better to me.”

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