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Tuesday, Feb 18 2014 10:03 PM

Teen survived terrible accident to inspire others

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BY STEVE LEVIN Californian staff writer slevin@bakersfield.com

Nineteen-year-old Dallen McEntire liked dirt bikes, camping, hunting, his truck, Rock Revival jeans and goofing off with friends.

He attended Bakersfield College with dreams of being a firefighter like his dad and his grandfather. He'd improve his study habits, graduate BC and transfer to finish his degree.

But he didn't get the chance.

Sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning he died in his sleep at his parents' northwest Bakersfield home. The Kern County Coroner's office, however, listed his time of death as 5:40 p.m. Friday.

The cause of death is pending.

At 19, McEntire already was considered a success by everyone who knew him and many more who didn't.

As an 11-year-old in 2006 he was severely injured after being run over by a boat while knee boarding during a family Labor Day outing at Shaver Lake. The extent of his injuries -- the propeller went completely through his skull, across his forehead, and under his nose and left eyelid -- necessitated neurosurgery and facial reconstruction, plus rehabilitation.

Pulled out of the water in critical condition following the hit-and-run accident, he spent more than a month at Children's Hospital Central California's Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Madera.

Not even his dad, a captain in the Bakersfield Fire Deparment, was sure he'd make it.

But he did, and recovered so quickly he earned the nickname "Superman."

To Dallen McEntire, the accident was just something that just happened. Three months later he was riding his dirt bike in the desert at Dove Springs.

"He knew there were (physiological) issues (from the accident) but he never once let them deter him or get in his way," said his mother, Lynn.

"I think he would tell you the accident made him a stronger person. Did it define him? No. He was already who he was."

Who he was was a sixth grader at Rio Bravo-Greeley School. Despite the accident, his grades were so good by the end of that schoolyear he earned an award of excellence for achieving an exceptional grade-point average. Who he was was a 2013 graduate of Frontier High School.

The accident remained part of him even though he wanted no part of it.

In 2008 a Los Angeles man was convicted of two misdemeanors -- speeding and failure to report an accident. A passenger in the boat was ordered to pay the McEntire family for out-of-pocket expenses such as lost wages and lodging, food and gas in connection with hospital visits and court hearings.

Dallen had his struggles from the accident. He never could see much but shadows out of his left eye. Studying was not easy for him. And there was a lot of scar tissue.

In November he had a grand mal seizure, and then two more this year. It prevented him from driving, but he finished the fall semester and had gone to classes on Feb. 13.

"Everything he overcame through his years kept us going," said his father, Jeff. "We're so thankful for those seven years.

"We just needed another 70."

In addition to his parents, McEntire is survived by his brother, Blake; and his grandparents, Don and Villa Lewis, of Neodesha, Kan., and Shirley McEntire of Clovis.

Funeral services will be 3:30 p.m. Friday at Greenlawn Southwest.

Donations "in remembrance of Dallen" can be sent to the RBG Education Foundation, 6521 Enos Lane, Bakersfield 93314.

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