A panicked and breathless off-duty Massachusetts state trooper desperately tried to calm the Norton woman he shot during a New Year’s Eve hunting accident while simultaneously directing rescue crews to the wooded area behind her home, according to the 911 call released yesterday.
“Hi, it’s John Bergeron. I have a woman; she’s shot in the woods,’’ said the 50-year-old trooper, as Cheryl Blair, 66, moaned in pain.
Blair was walking her family’s dogs about a quarter-mile into the woods behind her Oak Street home when Bergeron shot her about 5 p.m. Saturday, police said. He said he mistook the tail of one of her golden retrievers for that of a deer.
Investigators said Bergeron, who lives down the street from Blair, fired a single shot from a rifle.
The .50-caliber lead ball tore through Blair’s side and lodged in her hip, her family said. She remained in intensive care at Rhode Island Hospital.
James Blair said his wife, who is a mother of three, received multiple blood transfusions and underwent further diagnostic screening yesterday.
“I’m quite concerned,’’ he said from their home. “Apparently, when that projectile hit her hip, it made a little more damage than they first saw.’’
Twice a day for 20 years, Cheryl Blair has walked the dogs in the woods behind her family’s home. On Saturday, she was out with Ben and Tessa, two of the family’s Golden Retrievers. Both dogs never left her side as she lay on the ground, wondering, her husband said, “Am I going to die?’’
“Today was the first time she was able to say that to us,’’ James Blair said. “This is something that she just never anticipated. How can you?’’
During the 13-minute 911 call, Cheryl Blair can be heard clearly answering questions, relaying her address, telling dispatchers to call her husband, and assuring them and Bergeron that her husband knows the quarter-mile path she walks so regularly.
“Where are you hit ma’am?’’ Bergeron pleads.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t move,’’ she responds. “Ouch! Ow! Ow! Ow!’’
“Oh, my God,’’ Bergeron said.
He can be heard asking Blair if she is hit, telling the dispatcher he does not see blood, and calling on God. At one point, he asked why she is not in blaze orange, a color hunters are required to wear.
“How you doing, Cheryl?’’ he asked.
“I just want the pain to go away.’’
“I know. I’m so sorry,’’ he said. “Oh my, good God. You just stay with me, OK, dear. I am so sorry.’’
This time, she comforted him: “I know.’’
The lead ball, which created a 10-inch wound, did not hit any vital organ, her husband said. The doctors’ prognosis, he said, is that she will probably suffer from chronic pain and a limp.
James Blair said his is a military family who hunts and knows how to handle weapons. Accidents happen, he acknowledged, but simply saying sorry is not good enough.
To the Blairs, Bergeron violated one of the most basic hunting rules: Positively identify your target and what lies beyond.
“What happens when you let go of that bullet and it doesn’t hit your target? You’ve got to live with that, and you’ve got to explain it,’’ said Nicholas Blair, Cheryl’s son and a US Army captain. “He hasn’t explained it. He owns that shot.’’
The incident was investigated by Norton police, who said yesterday that no charges will be filed, and the state’s Environmental Police, who enforce hunting rules and regulations. Environmental Police said their investigation continues. Everything is being taking into consideration, said spokesman Reginald Zimmerman. “Nothing has been decided yet or ruled out.’’
Deer hunting season ended just after sunset Saturday, about 13 minutes before Blair was shot.
Saturday’s shooting was the fifth hunting incident investigated by Environmental Police since September, and the second time in 30 years that a nonhunter was injured by a hunter, said Marion Larson, a hunter education instructor and biologist for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Mistaking something else for game is the most common cause of hunting accidents, Larson said. Only deer hunters are legally required to wear blaze orange, which helps keep hunters visible and distinguishable from game in the woods, but the state recommends that anyone outdoors wear it, she said.