Tyler Murphy, Baseball Recruit, Struck by Boat Propeller on Tulloch Lake CA

Tyler Murphy

Tyler Murphy

Tyler Murphy, a recent graduate of Turlock High School, was on Lake Tulloch near his parents home in Turlock California on August 8, 2013. He and some friends were with a boat. Tyler’s right leg and hand were struck by the boat’s propeller. Details surrounding the accident are still very sketchy.

Tyler Murphy wrapped up his high school baseball days as a pitcher earlier this year and was just one week from going to St. Mary’s College to play collegiate baseball when he spent a day at Lake Tulloch with friends.

Tyler was life flighted to Memorial Hospital in Modesto and spent 18 days there (per the Moultrie Observer). He has had six surgeries (per a report in the 19 September Moultrie Observer) and may have more. The surgeries included grafting some skin from his grandfathers leg to Tyler’s injured right leg, and repairing Tyler’s injured right hand. Later reports say his right leg was cut from his upper hamstring to his ankle.

Tyler Murphy’s parents, Tony and Lori Murphy, are praying for his recovery, and also hope he may one day be able to return to baseball. His father Tony played shortstop for Moultrie High in the early 1970s.

A report in the Turlock City News covered Tyler’s return home after 26 days in the hospital on Monday September 2, 2013. They also report that St. Mary’s College will redshirt Tyler this year and hold his scholarship for him to come back in 2014.

Turlock Journal quoted Tyler back in November 2012 when he signed with St. Mary’s as saying:

“Playing baseball, it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s been a dream since I was little.”

They went on to note that Tyler had always followed St. Mary’s, and they recently built a new baseball field. He chose St. Mary’s in part, because he hoped to be able to play right away there, vs. being redshirted for a year at some of his other opportunities.

Friends and community have rallied around Tyler and his family, forming Team Murphy to hold several fundraisers in his behalf.

Tyler’s parents say they are optimistic about his recovery. The doctors say he is young and has a great attitude. But Tyler will have to undergo and extensive and difficult rehabilitation.

Several news reports say Tyler has vowed to return to baseball.

Other Young Athletes Injured by Boat Propellers

We chose to cover this accident in part due to Tyler Murphy’s ties to competitive sports. We have seen many youth with strong ties to competitive sports struck by boat propeller’s in recent years. Among them are:

  • About 2001 accident – Stef Reid of Canada lost her right foot to a boat propeller at age 16. She went on to compete in many sports and is know well known for winning a silver medal in the long jump for Great Britain in the London 2012 Paralympics.
  • 5 July (2002?) accident – Blake Lofting an 18 year sophomore at the University of Alabama in November 2007 was retelling of his propeller accident back when he was 13 years old while tubing on the Fowl River near Dauphin Island. A passing boat struck him with its propeller. Blake was life flighted to a hospital, spent two months in intensive care, then 8 more months in the hospital. He lost 90 pounds, his right leg below the knee, and his left lung. Now (Nov. 2007) he plays wheel chair basketball for University of Alabama.
  • 30 August 2003 accident date – Tess Taylor, 14 in September 2007) recounted how her left leg had been nearly severed on the Brazos River near Lake Granbury. She was wakeboarding with friends when she was struck by the propeller of a passing boat. Tess was not expected to life past her first surgery, but now (four years later) she is playing on her freshman volleyball team.
  • 17 April 2007 accident – Brook Fletcher, 17 of Queensland Australia, was participating in an open water swim meet south of Perth when she was struck by the propeller of a water safety craft. She still hopes to be able to recover in time to compete for Australia in the upcoming 2008 Olympics.
  • 13 May 2007 accident – Jessy Alfaonso was boating off Miami Florida when their boat was struck by another boat. She was struck by the propeller and suffered a deep gash to her lower back and upper backside. It took several months for her to be able to walk again. Now (May 2007) she and her sister are playing softball for Florida International University.
  • Summer 2007 accident – Emily Fox was struck twice by the boat propeller in her right leg while water skiing. In December 2007 she was playing basketball for the Minnesota Gophers.
  • 2 June 2007 accident – Ethan Chupka, 16, and his Lakeview High School JV baseball teammates (Michigan) were on Beadle Lake southeast of Battle Creek. Chupka and another rider were on a tube, the other rider fell, the boat circled to pickup the fallen rider and ran over Chupka during the process. He was struck by the propeller. The tourniquet one of his friends quickly put on his leg was thought to have saved his life.
  • Summer 2009 accident – Eric Cline, Nacagdoches High School (TX) was injured by a propeller while knee boarding on Lake Palestine. He will be unable to play varsity tennis this year, but still hopes to win a National Merit Scholarship when he graduates in 2010. The prop sliced his right leg and he now walks with a brace.
  • June 2010 Accident – Wes Haas, 17, along with some friends took a pontoon boat out on Kerr Lake (North Carolina) to celebrate the first day of football practice. Wes fell overboard, his shorts became entrapped in the propeller, his right hamstring was sliced, and he was life flighted to Duke Hospital.
  • Summer 2010 Accident – Patrick Sutton, current starting center for University of Tennessee’s football team was struck by a boat propeller. A 6 August 2013 Chattanoogan (TN) article recounts his recovery and efforts to return to playing football.
  • 3 July 2012 accident – Ally Laduke of Marysville High School (Michigan) was struck by a boat propeller on a lake near Midland Michigan. Her leg was broken and required over 70 stitches. She was motivated to recover by her desire to return to and contribute to her high school swim team. She cried the first time she got back in the pool because it was so hard. She has since made great progress and is their leading distance swimmer.
  • 4 July 2012 accident – Nick Schmit, a 2012 graduate of Fargo North Dakota High School and outstanding hockey player, was struck by a boat propeller in Perham Minnesota. He suffered broken bones, fractured hip, and many deep cuts. He recently came off 14 weeks of therapy and is now beginning to skate again. He hopes to play hockey again.
  • 20 July 2012 accident – Kali Gorzell, 16 from near San Antonio Texas was struck and killed by a boat propeller. She was a member of the Smithson Valley High School volleyball team, and widely known for her zest for life. Her classmates and friends came up with the phrase, “Live Like Kali” to honor her.
  • 20 July 2012 accident – Charlie Hutton, 14 from near London England UK, was on a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) with his dad and another two other teenage boys near the Isle of Wight when the boat was struck by a large wave. Charlie and the other boy were swept overboard. Charlie became entrapped on the propeller and died minutes later from his injuries. Charlie was a highly skilled filed hockey player at Whitgift Independent School and trained with the England under 15 team last year. His team at Whitgift won the national title in 2011 and he hoped to play in the Olympics for Great Britain in 2020. That’s Charlie on the front row, left of center with the watch on his right arm in the team photo below
    Charlie Hutton 2011 Whitgift Field Hockey Team

    Charlie Hutton on 2011 Whitgift Field Hockey Team

  • 5 August 2012 accident – Patrick Arhern, 17 of Norman Oklahoma, was on a rented PWC off Dustin Florida when he collided with a boat and cut by the propeller. He was life flighted to a hospital in Pensacola where his foot was amputated. Patrick played soccer and was going to be one of the captains of the cross country team this year. In April 2013, 5 months after receiving his first prosthesis, and just two weeks after receiving his running prosthesis, Patrick ran the 400 meters at Putnam City for Norman. Scott Sabolich Prosthetics of Oklahoma City supplied him a running prosthetic free of charge to help him rejoin his teammates. Everyone up close lined the track, and the stands were on their feet to cheer him on. His time (1 minute 32 seconds) was not competitive, but all present will remember that race.
  • 11 August 2012 accident – Cian Williams, 13 of Wales, was struck by a boat propeller and received over 700 stitches in his leg. His favorite sport was Rugby and he still hopes to play again.

We hope these examples provide a little inspiration to Tyler Murphy, his parents, and other athletes facing similar challenges. First, Tyler Murphy survived (some did not), second, others have made it back to play competitive sports at the highest levels, and third, some who did not regain their competitive edge were still motivated by sports and motivated others by their efforts.

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