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Old 06-19-2005, 01:15 PM
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Father with Kahuna's

Father went over cliff to help girl
Youth recovering after tumbling down Otter Creek Park slope

By Adam Sichko
The Courier-Journal

Michelle Lopez doesn't remember every detail of the bicycle spill that threw her over a cliff and into trees, rocks and other debris on a steep slope. But as sure as she's wearing a neck brace and a sling in her hospital bed at Louisville's Frazier Rehab Institute, she knows her father saved her life.

"I think my dad's a superhero," she said yesterday, smiling wide to reveal a chipped front tooth, a result of the terrifying fall. "My dad's awesome. He said he loves me so much, he'd do anything for me."

Even leap over a 150-foot cliff.

Before leaving to serve in Iraq with the Army, Mike Lopez wanted to do something with wife Veronica and their four children on one of his last weekends in town.

So, on June 5, he drove them the short distance from their Fort Knox military residence to Otter Creek Park, which is operated by Louisville's Metro Parks, for some bike riding on the trails. It was a warm day, and it would help 7-year-old John Michael get used to two wheels again after a recent bike accident.

Michelle, 12, led the single-file line of bicyclists on the narrow path high above the Ohio River. As she rode over a bumpy stretch of tree roots and rocks, she called out a warning to her family behind her.

"I started losing control of my handlebars," she said. "There was a turn, and I went too wide because I was wobbling.

"I closed my eyes and I let go of my bike."

Michelle lost control of her mountain bike and disappeared over the edge of a cliff called "North Point" and into dense woods that hid a steep drop-off.

"I yelled down three or four times, screaming as hard as I could," Lopez said. "Eventually, I heard her faintly calling my name."

Finally, Michelle had stopped rolling, coming to rest against a tree. She had a broken left collarbone, a jaw broken in two places, cracked teeth and several cuts that needed stitches, not to mention the scrapes and bruises inflicted upon the rest of her body. During the tumble, she lost her helmet and her shoes.

"I remember falling and screaming," she said. "I could feel that my shoulder wasn't strong and it was hanging over."

Alex, 9, tried to discourage her father from going over the edge, but Lopez had no other option.

"She tried to tell me, 'No, Dad,' " he said. "I just jumped for it. I cleared a tree, and then reality broke in."

Reality sent him down the slope in pinball fashion. He said he grabbed onto small trees in hopes of stopping his fall, but instead, the limbs snapped and went with him. He tried to dig his fingernails into the cool forest soil to slow his pace, but that proved futile, too.

The trip down the slope "seemed like two seconds," he said. Before he knew it, he said, he had made it to his daughter without suffering any injuries, except for scrapes and cuts.

"I remember him telling me that we weren't in a good spot and we needed to go back up," Michelle said.

Lopez said he set to work establishing what Michelle could and couldn't do.

"She had so much blood" from her wounds, he said. "You could tell she was really confused.

"I remember looking back up and thinking, 'How are we going to get back up?' "

Michelle couldn't talk well, but worse, she couldn't walk very well, he said. He said Michelle draped her arm around his shoulder, and he wrapped his arms around her waist. Michelle was dizzy; progress up the steep incline was stop-and-start, measured step by step.

"On the second stop, you could tell she was getting tired," Lopez said. "I told her I needed her to walk because I couldn't do it on my own, and she kept telling me that she couldn't do it.

"I actually started getting after her; I told her, 'Help me help you,' " he said.

Father and daughter slowly made it to the top. Emergency crews were on the scene about an hour after the incident happened -- thanks to a passing cyclist with a cell phone -- but it took about another half-hour before the workers could reach Michelle and strap her to a flat board. She was then flown by helicopter to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville.

Meade County Fire Chief Larry Naser said six men carried Michelle. "We had to carry her out about a mile, maybe a mile and a half," he said.

For Michelle, much of that afternoon seems somewhat surreal.

"I kept saying, 'This isn't happening, right Daddy? This isn't happening,' " Michelle said. "He said, 'No, it's not happening right now.' "

Almost two weeks later, she's enduring speech, occupational and physical therapy. She's learning to depend on her right arm for many household chores and other tasks.

Yesterday, she practiced helping out in the kitchen by making peanut butter cookies. She'll have to help out more around the house soon, because her father is scheduled to go to Iraq. He had his departure delayed because of his daughter's injury.

When asked what she thinks of her father and what he did, Michelle choked up.

"I love my daddy very much," she said, tears streaming down her face. "And sometimes, I get mad at myself to see all the scratches I had to give him."

But Lopez dismisses his daughter's "superhero" label, focusing instead on the fact that Michelle should come home today -- just in time for Father's Day.

"I'm not at all a hero," he said. "I think I just did what any loving parent would have done for their child."

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Old 06-19-2005, 01:25 PM
Botnst's Avatar
What knockers!
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: There castle.
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Wow. Happy Father's Day.
'Government is like a baby:
An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and
no sense of responsibility at the other'
- Ronald Reagan
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Old 06-19-2005, 01:56 PM
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MTI MTI is offline
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Is that kahuna (Hawaiian for priest or spiritual leader) or cajones (slang for "balls")?
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Old 06-19-2005, 02:42 PM
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Originally Posted by MTI
Is that kahuna (Hawaiian for priest or spiritual leader) or cajones (slang for "balls")?

I meant cajones, that darn slang
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Old 06-19-2005, 06:30 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Miami
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Good man!

Enough about me, how are you doing?
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