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Navy Airman Apprentice Daniel R. Verbeke

Died July 14, 2008 Serving During Operation Iraqi Freedom

25, of Exton, Penn.; died July 14 in Paoli, Penn. of complications from injuries he sustained in a flight deck accident in December 2005 while serving aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

TR sailor dies from injuries suffered in 2005

By Amy McCullough

Staff writer

A 25-year-old sailor from Pennsylvania died Monday from injuries sustained aboard the carrier Theodore Roosevelt more than two years ago.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Daniel R. Verbeke, of Exton, Pa., was doing emergency repairs on one of the carrier’s arresting wires on Dec. 5, 2005, when a hydraulic failure blasted the side of his neck with 50,000 pounds of pressure, his father, Robert Verbeke, said in a telephone interview Monday.

The blast threw him backward into a beam inches from his head. The accident left the sailor a quadriplegic with traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung, fractured vertebrae and fractured ribs.

“He was comatose and as I understand it, his shipmates carried him out of the space with tears pouring down their faces,” Robert Verbeke said.

The ship was in the Persian Gulf at the time. The sailor was immediately flown to Kuwait and later to Balad Air Base, Iraq, where doctors performed the first of many surgeries. The cranioplasty, surgery on the skull, released the pressure inside the cranium.

“That’s what saved his life,” his father said.

Still, Verbeke could not eat, drink or speak on his own. Recently, he began saying small words, such as “uh-huh, all right, yes and no.” He was even able to tell his father “I love her,” after hearing his sister’s voice on the phone.

Robert Verbeke, also a Navy veteran, said the support from the Theodore Roosevelt crew has been “incredible,” saying Daniel made progress every time his shipmates visited.

But the family did not share the same enthusiasm for the Hunter Holmes McGuire Richmond Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Virginia.

Robert Verbeke testified before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee just four months before his son’s death, saying the family moved Daniel to a private care facility because they were not happy with the care he was receiving.

Daniel Verbeke enlisted in the Navy in June 2004 and was advanced to E-4 almost a year after the accident. He was the recipient of the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

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