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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane dentist uses Boy Scout skills to save motorcyclist whose leg was severed in hit-and-run

UPDATED: Fri., April 28, 2017

When local dentist James Shelby turned the corner onto Southeast Boulevard near 11th Avenue on Sunday evening, he stumbled onto a scene of alarm and confusion: Daniel “Dutch” Inwood bleeding out on the side of the road, his motorcycle lying several yards away in the middle of the street.

Inwood was in shock. Hysterical. Blood was pouring out of a large hole beneath his knee cap, and the rest of his leg was hanging on by a skinny thread of flesh.

Days later, with the wound swaddled in bandages and his life no longer in danger, Inwood reflected on the moment: “I’ll never forget holding my foot and my leg in my hand,” he said, turning his palms upward as he mimed holding the severed limb to his chest.

On Sunday, however, there was no time to reflect. Acting quickly, the dentist grabbed his belt and tied it tightly around the wound, using it as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. He grabbed another bystander’s belt and used that too.

It was a technique he had learned not from his years of medical training, but from an earlier chapter of life: his time in the Boy Scouts.

“Everyone else was hysterical,” Shelby said. “The blood was squirting out of his artery. I knew the only way he was going to live was to get the blood stopped.”

The vehicle Inwood hit, which he described as a gold-colored SUV, drove away before Shelby arrived, leaving behind only a broken taillight and a pile of dust where the motorcycle had clipped the driver’s rear side.

Police are still looking for the driver.

“The guy was in pretty bad shape and had lost a lot of blood,” Shelby said. He said there was “no doubt” Inwood would have died if nobody helped.

Four days after the accident, Inwood was awaiting surgery at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center to remove gravel and impurities from his wound. Provided the procedure is successful, the wound will be sewn into a stump.

Surrounded by his girlfriend, Latisha Carper, and best friend Jodi “Squeaky” Pennington, Inwood described what happened that night, while sitting upright on his hospital bed with a view of Spokane out the window.

Hours before the collision, he was at a birthday party for Pennington’s 13-year-old son. He left sometime around 8:30 p.m., headed toward 18th Avenue and Jefferson Street on the South Hill, where he plans to build a homeless veterans shelter.

As Inwood came over a small hill on Southeast Boulevard and turned the corner past 12th Avenue, there in the middle of the intersection was an SUV attempting to turn left out of 11th Avenue.

“Like a Suburban,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure it was a female driver.”

The vehicle was stopped in the middle of the road, so Inwood said he motioned for the driver to continue the turn and pull through the intersection. He said the SUV started to move, but then stopped again – still in his lane.

With no time to swerve to the right, Inwood clipped the rear end of the driver’s side with the left side of his bike. He was thrown to the ground several feet away. His 2009 Harley-Davidson, which he had just purchased, slid forward and came to rest on its side.

“I tried to roll out of the street,” he said. “But I noticed I was dragging my leg behind me.”

The retired Army veteran and lifelong biker has been in motorcycle accidents before, he said. And he’s had his share of brushes with death – at one point he even helped clean up after the Jonestown massacre in northwestern Guyana, where over 900 people committed suicide in 1978.

He said he’s “not an angel” and his life hasn’t been perfect. But he’s glad to be alive, and he praises Shelby for allowing that to happen.

“He saved my life,” he said, tears forming behind his eyes. “If it hadn’t been for that guy, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Shelby, meanwhile, said he doesn’t fancy himself a hero – instead, he says what he did is what “any Boy Scout would do.”

He does, however, question whether police were doing everything they could to find the driver. He said he was shocked to learn Monday morning that there weren’t any news stories about what had happened, even though there was a broken taillight left at the scene and witnesses who described seeing the make and model of the vehicle.

“You want body shops and people to know this guy is driving with a taillight out,” he said.

Inwood said he thinks the bystander whose belt Shelby borrowed to tie around his leg had a clear view of the crash, since it occurred right in front of a row of houses.

Spokane police Officer Paul Taylor said that by the time he was called out to the scene, many of the witnesses had dispersed, though he did talk to some. He also knocked on doors and left his card, but so far he hasn’t heard back from anyone who lived nearby.

He asked anyone with any information to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.

Taylor was able to determine with some certainty the make of the vehicle by having a local body shop take a look at the section of taillight that popped off. He said it probably came from an early 2000s GM or Chevrolet SUV, likely a Yukon, Tahoe or Suburban.

He said it was unlikely the person driving the vehicle didn’t know they were in a collision, since it would be “extraordinary” not to feel the impact or hear the Harley-Davidson roaring down the street. That would qualify the driver’s actions as a hit and run – a felony.

“It was a substantial impact,” he said. “Vehicles, especially when they’re dirty, they leave a dust imprint. And it left a dust imprint.”

Though he almost lost his life while riding a motorcycle, Inwood said one of the first things he plans on doing when he gets out of the hospital is to figure out how to modify his bike to let him shift without the need for a left foot.

“I think he’ll start riding before he even gets walking down,” said his girlfriend, Carper.

As a veteran, Inwood spent many years in the Combat Vet Riders club – something he describes as a “brotherhood” full of “some of the best people I’ve ever known.”

It’s part of the reason why he’s in the middle of turning an old home on 18th and Jefferson into a homeless veterans shelter. He already has the name picked out: “Fallout Shelter,” he says with a grin.

Getting that up and running is the first major project on the docket once he’s out and healthy, he said.

But first, it’s learning to walk with a stretcher, and then possibly a prosthetic further down the road. In the meantime, Inwood and Carper plan to reap what benefits they can.

“Now we know what to do with all of the mismatched socks,” Carper said.

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