RURAL CERRO GORDO — A lack of safety precautions, a bow not properly tuned and archer fatigue were all factors in an Oct. 10 accident that critically injured a Cerro Gordo teen when she was shot in the head with an arrow. That according to a report issued this week by the Piatt County Sheriff's Department.
In the report, Deputy Sgt. J.D. Russell said the main problem was the victim was down range — or in front of — the shooter.
"The basic rule is no one should be down range when someone has a loaded weapon, and no one should load a weapon when someone is down range," Russell said. "It's the basic rules of shooting."
The incident occurred about 9 p.m. in a rural area northeast of Cerro Gordo, and injured 16-year-old Maci Webb, who is still in critical condition at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.
The sheriff's office determined this week that Webb was seated on the tailgate of a pickup truck down range of the archer, identified as Andrew J. Dick, 21, also of Cerro Gordo. His equipment, including a Barnett Archery Vortex Hunter compound bow, had a rest and arrows not properly "tuned" to the bow, which can affect arrow flight.
Fatigue was also a factor, said Russell, who added there was no apparent foul play involved. The investigation concluded Dick was on just his second day of shooting with a bow, and had shot double the 30 to 40 arrows that are recommended per practice session for beginners.
"If you're fatigued and tired, take a break," Russell advised. "Shoot another day."
Danny Evans of Monticello, an archer for over 20 years who now shoots professionally, said such accidents are rare.
"I would say it's very unusual. I've heard of a couple of people getting shot before, but never in the head," said Evans, who earned $33,000 last year in 3D archery competitions. He echoed Russell's tips and also said he teaches new archers to aim first at the ground in case the arrow fires accidentally.
"You just have to be aware of your surroundings," he added. "Before I practice, I make sure everyone is in the house, and that no one's coming around the corner. Just make sure no one is between you and the target."
According to the National Safety Council, there were 7.1 million U.S. archery participants in 2009, with 4,199 injuries reported that required trips to a doctor or a hospital emergency room. The International Bowhunting Organization estimates bow hunting accounts for less than 2 percent of total hunting accidents and injuries.
Russell added that in cases such as the one in Cerro Gordo, it is best for the arrow to remain in the victim until emergency personnel arrive.
"If there is ever an object that is impaled, don't remove it," Russell said. "Render what aid you can, but leave the rest to the doctors."
Piatt County State's Attorney Dana Rhoades said she would review the case for possible charges once the full report is received from the Sheriff's Department.
The Cerro Gordo Community is already chipping in to help with Webb's medical costs with at least three fundraising events.
A fundraiser breakfast is scheduled for 7 to 10 a.m. Nov. 9 at the Cerro Gordo Masonic Lodge Hall. The menu will include pancakes, sausage, and biscuits and gravy.
On Nov. 23, 'Operation Maci' will be held throughout town and will include a dodgeball tournament, bake sale, chili dinner, bags tournament, silent auction and music in the evening. Donations of baked goods and silent auction items are being sought. Another benefit is also being planned for March 8, 2014.
Organizer Lori Heatherton said an open Facebook group — #OperationMaci — has also been started.
Donations can also be sent to Operation Maci or Maci Webb in care of the State Bank of Cerro Gordo, P.O. Box 440, Cerro Gordo, IL 61618.