Virginia Beach, Va. – The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is said to be one of the most dangerous places in the world.
It’s something Heather Kohlhepp’s family learned the hard way, after her son was run over by an F/A-18 Hornet aboard the USS George H.W. Bush while on deployment.
“On June 18th, we got a phone call saying there had been a critical injury to our son on the flight deck during an op,” said Kohlhepp.
Her son Colin, an Ocean Lakes High School graduate, served as an Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Aircraft Handler.
They direct the movements of the jets on the flight deck – but something went horribly wrong that day when both of Colin’s legs got caught under the wheel of the Hornet.
“I didn’t know how serious it really was until I saw him,” said Kohlhepp.
Heather finally got to see Colin when he made it to Walter Reed Hospital.
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Doctors there told the family his right leg needed to be amputated from the knee down.
“I was upset, but the surgeon just looked at me and said, ‘Your son is the only person we’ve seen that’s been run over by a 50,000 pound plane and survived, so you could be burying your kid right now,’ and that’s a wake-up,” said Kohlhepp.
Colin, at just 20 years old, is taking it well, especially after a visit from his commander-in-chief.
“President Obama came to visit my son yesterday! It was really cool, he took time out of his day, spent about 10 minutes in the room, and it was amazing,” said Kohlhepp.
Heather says the Navy is still investigating the chain of events that led up to her son’s injury, but the family tells NewsChannel 3 they know it was just an accident.
“We are not trying to place blame on anything. My son knew when he joined the military that it’s a team effort. It’s no one’s fault, it will be investigated, they find where it went wrong, and they will make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Kohlhepp.