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4:11 PM Thu, Nov. 15th

Golden Valley man, family hang on a year after he was hit by passing truck's mirror

Rory and Debra Badon sit in the living room of their Golden Valley home.<BR>DOUG McMURDO/Miner

Rory and Debra Badon sit in the living room of their Golden Valley home.<BR>DOUG McMURDO/Miner

GOLDEN VALLEY - It was noon on a bright, blue-sky January day when the driver, a woman from Mohave Valley, struck Rory Badon in the head with her truck's oversize tow mirror at 65 mph.

He was about to pour fuel from a gas can into his disabled vehicle, which was parked in the westbound emergency lane of Highway 68 near its intersection with Teddy Roosevelt Street.

His injuries are substantial - and the ordeal is far from over.

"I have a titanium plate in the right side of my skull," he said during a recent interview at the Golden Valley home he shares with his wife, Debra. "I have back and shoulder problems, I can't hear out of my right ear and I have 10 percent vision in my right eye. My life is pretty much done at 50."

Rory's brain has also started to atrophy since the accident, leading one neurologist to suggest he will be afflicted with early onset dementia.

He also suffers seizures, a severe loss of balance and short-term memory loss. Fighting depression is a never-ending battle, he said, and he breathes with the help of an oxygen tank because he isn't getting a sufficient amount to his brain.

The couple's medical bills are creeping up on the $300,000 range.

These are the known facts. What isn't so clear is what happened in the seconds leading up to the accident.

The Badons believe the woman committed two negligent acts that day: failure to move over for a disabled vehicle and leaving her travel lane. The evidence police gathered at the scene does not support their contention.

They also believe she was texting on her cell phone, but an investigation by the Arizona Department of Public Safety did not yield conclusive evidence that she was distracted at the exact moment the accident occurred. The evidence did not indicate she left her travel lane, either, according to investigators, and the fact that Rory failed to activate his hazard lights meant she did not have to move to another lane.

Insurance pays

She was not cited, but her insurance company has already paid the Badons for Rory's injuries.

The Badons took the insurance money, less the substantial share claimed by his medical providers and attorney, and paid off all their debts, including their mortgage.

"We had to," said Debra. "We're living off of $700 a month disability. We can't make a house payment and pay all of our other bills on that. We're broke now, but we're grateful we could buy this house."

There's precious little left for the two teenage children at home, and Debra is exhausted providing Rory with the 24-hour care his condition demands.

"I get four hours of sleep a night," she said. "Nobody's willing to help us. He could have been another cross out there and nobody does anything about it. I want to know why. Where's the justice?"

To be clear, the Badons hold no malice for the woman. They just wonder why she wasn't cited for negligent driving.

"I saw him get hit," said Debra. "I saw the whole thing. I saw his brains. He was three feet off the highway and she veered into him instead of moving into the left lane like you're supposed to."

According to a kindly written letter from DPS Major Dean Nyhart, a couple of factors kept investigators from issuing a citation.

In the lane

Rory did not activate his emergency flashers and a 28-foot long skid mark left by one of the woman's tires provided evidence that she was fully within her travel lane when the accident occurred.

It was a bad combination of the oversized tow mirror on her truck and a gas can with a longer than average spout, according to investigators.

The woman also consented to drug and alcohol testing with negative results, said Nyhart in his letter.

The problem for the Badons is this: Four witnesses told them and investigators that the woman did indeed cross the fog line before striking Rory.

When Rory ran out of fuel, a Mohave County deputy stopped to assist him. Rory said he asked the deputy if he should push his truck farther from the roadway. He was about three feet from the white line, he said.

The deputy, he said, didn't think that was necessary.

Rory left his home in a hurry that day, dressed only in a bathrobe, to take his daughter to school.

"The deputy was very nice, very professional," said Rory. "He told me I looked silly standing on the highway in my robe and told me to sit in his car while he locked up my truck. I never really thought to turn on my hazard lights at the time."

The deputy drove Rory to his home on Laguna Road so Rory could put on clothes and retrieve a gas can. Debra drove him back to his disabled truck.

Rory has no recollection of the accident, but it is seared into his wife's memory.

The Badons attempted to file a lawsuit against the woman separate from her insurance, but their attorney said her assets are tied up in a trust, making her essentially judgment-proof.

A general contractor in California for three decades, Rory moved his family to Golden Valley when the Great Recession brought work to a screeching halt.

They were doing OK, the couple agrees. Rory was making about $600 a week performing a variety of handyman jobs and Debra had a good job in the medical field.

Since the accident, their income has shrunk by about $6,000 a month and the future could not be more uncertain.

Still, they are grateful Rory survived and they've learned life isn't about amassing possessions.

"We're going to keep going on," said Debra. "I just need some help or we're not going to make it. I need to get a job and I can't work without someone to help me."

And they've forgiven the woman who hit Rory.

"We pray for her every night," said Debra.

"She didn't do it on purpose," said Rory. "It was an accident, but it turned us upside down."