Water taxi victim, 8, released from hospital

Virginia girl is transferred to rehabilitation center

April 02, 2004|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,SUN STAFF

Sarah Bentrem, the 8-year-old Virginia girl who nearly died in the March 6 Seaport Taxi accident that killed five other passengers, has been released from the hospital in Baltimore.

She was the last of the 25 people on board the water taxi to be hospitalized after their harbor shuttle capsized in a storm.

Sarah was released from the University of Maryland Medical Center early yesterday and transported by ambulance to the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center in Charlottesville, Va., according to hospital officials and her family.

"She's looking a lot better than she did three weeks ago," said Dr. George C. Bentrem, the child's grandfather and a retired physician. He attributed the report to Sarah's sister, Katherine, 7.

Breathing on her own

Sarah was breathing on her own and no longer required cardiac support, Dr. Bentrem said. Her neurological future remains unknown.

"The good news is she's real young," he said. "But how much she will regain ... what new pathways can be established in the brain has yet to be determined."

Officials at the UM Medical Center would not disclose Sarah's condition at the time of her release early yesterday. But on Wednesday she had been listed in fair condition, upgraded from critical.

Sarah was among 23 passengers and two crew members thrown into the water off Fort McHenry when their water taxi, a 36-foot pontoon boat, blew over in a sudden storm shortly after leaving the Fort McHenry dock.

Rescuers said she was immersed in the 44-degree harbor water for more than 10 minutes, but medical personnel at Maryland Shock Trauma Center were able to revive her.

Her parents, Elizabeth and Dr. George A. Bentrem, and her sister, Katherine, also survived. But her brother, 6-year-old Daniel, drowned. His body was recovered by divers eight days later.

In a written statement released yesterday through the hospital, Sarah's parents and her sister expressed their gratitude to those in Baltimore and elsewhere who assisted them during their ordeal.

Sarah's grandfather said the child's parents remained close to her throughout her hospitalization in Baltimore, staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Katherine stayed with family friends in Lancaster, Pa.

Her father, a family practice physician in Harrisonburg, accompanied Sarah on the long ambulance ride to Virginia, her grandfather said.

The family is now looking for an apartment in Charlottesville so Sarah's mother and sister can stay close by.

Educational trip

The Bentrems' ordeal began as an educational trip to Baltimore, one they had postponed for a week because of bad weather.

Relatives said the Bentrems particularly wanted the children to see Baltimore's National Aquarium and historic Fort McHenry as part of their home-schooling curriculum.

When the pontoon boat flipped, the children's father tried to help Daniel and Katherine toward an opening in the boat's canopy.

Sarah's grandfather said his son told him Katherine "grabbed a leg going up."

But as Dr. Bentrem reached for his wife and got her and Katherine to safety, the current swept Daniel away. Sarah was not located until rescuers from the nearby U.S. Naval Reserve Training Center lifted the taxi's overturned hull. She was pulled from the water and rushed to shore with her father.

The elder Dr. Bentrem said he believed "a lot of good will come out of this," specifically new regulations for the design and operation of water taxis in Baltimore Harbor.

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