‘I thought I was dead’: Marine run over by boat blames VA for surgery hold up
By: Allison Latos, WSOC-TV Updated: Nov 13, 2019 – 6:41 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq said a trip to visit family in the Charlotte area turned into a life-changing nightmare full of pain, surgeries and major delays with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Channel 9 anchor Allison Latos received a tip about Marine Caleb Murry’s struggle and spent the past five days tracking down information to try to help him.
Murry was out on Mountain Island Lake last July, but his fishing trip ended with him in the hospital after he said a boater collided with him.
The Marine told Channel 9 he can’t get the surgeries he needs to heal, and he blames the broken Veterans Affairs system.
Murry spent four years fighting for America in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Four months ago, he came to Charlotte to visit family, but his fishing trip on the lake ended in a life-changing emergency.
“It (the boat) was coming at me like that, and I flipped under,” he said.
Murry told Channel 9 he was in a kayak when the boat, operated by Kevin Gray, ran over him.
“I felt my arm going like this (spinning) and I was like, ‘Oh, we’re toast,’” Murry said. “So, I threw my body into the propeller and that’s what stopped it. I thought I was dead.”
Murry spent four days in the hospital. His left arm now has nerve damage and both of his legs are scarred.
But the Marine needs more surgeries.
For his service, Murry receives VA medical coverage, but he said the VA hasn’t paid nearly $200,000 in previous medical bills.
Because of that, he’s having a hard time scheduling new operations.
Attorney Adam Hocutt represents Murry. He is trying to get money from the boater’s liability coverage but said Murry’s insurance should cover his bills now.
“I think it’s even worse when someone has served our country and the least we can do is provide the benefits,” Hocutt told Channel 9. “There seems to be more difficulty with getting VA benefits than almost any other type of healthcare.”
“It’s a shame,” said Murry. “It shouldn’t be that difficult.”
TriWest Healthcare said they are now working with Murry and the VA to try to address the issue.
Atrium Health told Channel 9: “As the safety net hospital for this region, Atrium Health prides itself on caring for all, no matter what. While HIPAA prohibits us from speaking about a specific patient case, in general, additional care would not be impacted by an outstanding bill that is awaiting insurance payment, and therefore would not prohibit a patient from receiving any necessary care from Atrium Health.”
OrthoCarolina won’t discuss individual patients without consent. Channel 9 is working on that paperwork to get their answers.
Channel 9 has not yet heard back from the VA.
Gray faces a misdemeanor charge of boating while intoxicated and will be in Gaston County court in December.
The VA is researching Murry’s case.
Statement from Gray’s attorney, Robert J. Decurtis:“Regarding my client, Kevin Gray, he is an experienced boater who was out with his family on their pontoon boat the night of the accident. Mr. Gray struck Mr. Murray’s kayak out in a main channel in darkness where Mr. Murray said he had been fishing. Mr. Gray and his wife rendered immediate assistance to Mr. Murray, pulling him on board, and assisted Rescue and Police at their dock minutes later. Although, Mr. Gray is adamant about his innocence in this case, he remains extremely concerned about Mr. Murray and the severity of his injuries.”