$1,700 Helps, Doesn't Heal Bill

Donations For Burned Boy Are Welcomed

June 09, 1991|By Staff report

Juanita Johns, the mother of the 8-year-old Annapolis boy badly burned by an electrical transformer, has received $1,700 in contributionsfrom city residents.

But that's far short of the tens of thousands of dollars it will take to pay for the medical treatment of her son, Terrence Tolbert.

Terrence lost his right arm and suffered severe burns after crawling into the unlocked, 13,000-volt transformer at the Robinwood public housing development six weeks ago.

The boy was to be released yesterday from Children's Hospital National Medical Center, where he was treated for severe burns and received skin grafts on both legs. Terrence now heads to Philadelphia's Shriners' Burn Institute to learn to walk again and to receive an artificial right arm.

The Rev. Ricky Spain, pastor at Mount Olive AME Church, presented Johns a $1,400 check from private contributions Thursday and said another $300 had been raised .

The church and the Black Political Forum are heading the fund-raising effort. Contributions may be sent to The Terrence Tolbert Fund, Mount Olive AME Church, 2 Hicks Ave., Annapolis 21401.

Spain said Mount Olive, other churches and organizations are expectedto contribute money as well.

Terrence's medical bills have reached almost $200,000, and his mother's insurance requires her to pay 20 percent of the tab, said her attorney, Alan Legum.

Johns also had to quit her job in the dietary department of Anne Arundel Medical Center to care for her son and shuttle him to doctors and hospitals.

The 28-year-old single mother of three, Johns expressed gratitude to the two men who rescued her son, Annapolis police officer Peter Medley and Robinwood resident Joseph Parker. She also thanked residents for their contributions, their prayers and offers of condolence and support.

But she criticized the Annapolis Housing Authority for failing to take enough precautions to keep children out of the same Robinwood electrical transformer that injured three boys, one of them seriously, 11 years ago.

"There's a lot of anger because this could have been prevented easily," she said. "It just never should have happened."

Legum and alderman Carl O. Snowden, the Ward 5 Democrat, alsoblamed the housing authority for the accident.

Housing authority officials say they keep the 42 transformers in city public housing developments locked, but vandals had broken into the Robinwood transformer a week before the accident.

Harold S. Greene, the authority's executive director, is asking the authority's board of commissioners to place new tamper-proof locks on all transformers in city public housing developments. The board is to vote on the proposal Wednesday.

As for possible legal action against the authority, Legum said he has directed experts to look into whether the authority had taken "proper precautions" and will decide whether to sue within 30 days.

Legum, who represented one of the victims burned by the same transformer in 1980, said the authority had agreed as part of an out-of-court settlement then to make certain the boxes stayed beyond the reach of children.

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