A Marine captain and San Luis Obispo High School alumnus is recovering in a hospital in Germany after he lost one of his lower legs and suffered other serious injuries in a helicopter crash Monday in Afghanistan.
Worried friends and family have inundated the San Luis Obispo County relatives of 31-year-old Blake Dwight Smith with concerns about his safety and well-being.
His parents, Craig Smith and Georgina Pease, have flown to Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in Germany to be with him, according to Blake Smith’s stepfather, Dan Pease.
“We have heard directly from the hospital bed,” Dan Pease said. “Friends were able to visit him and e-mail us. He opened his eyes, and he recognized them, and he was trying to remove his ventilator so the hospital staff removed it for him.”
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He’s conscious and aware, Pease said.
Pease and Blake Smith’s stepmother, Jody Smith, plan to fly to the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland to see him when he is transported back to the United States for further medical treatment.
Georgina and Dan Pease live in San Luis Obispo; Jody and Craig Smith live in Atascadero.
Blake Smith, who was piloting a Vietnam-era Huey in the Helmand River Valley in Afghanistan, lost his left leg below the knee in the crash. He also injured his shoulder and arm and suffered other injuries, his stepfather said.
Pease had been told that his stepson is in stage 2 critical condition, which means that he is in critical condition but all of his vital signs are under control.
Four Marines were killed in the crash in which two helicopters collided. In a separate helicopter accident in another region of Afghanistan the same day, an estimated 14 died, including soldiers and Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
“We are really fortunate,” Dan Pease said. “We have somebody we can go see. Other families don’t. We are small-town America. It was our first time to experience this sort of tragedy. As hard as it is, there are people who can’t visit their children in the hospital.”
Blake Smith was born in the North County and attended schools in Atascadero before starting at Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo.
After two years, he transferred to San Luis Obispo High School, where he graduated.
Smith is single and has no children.
He served in the Air Force for four years, and then attended and graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz. He followed that with stints as a flight instructor in Alaska and Seattle, and then he joined the Marines.
While he was expected to complete his current tour in Afghanistan next month, Pease said he believes Smith planned to make the military his career. He is in the Viper Squadron out of Camp Pendleton.
“How does any parent hold up in something like this?” Pease said. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare that you can only imagine. If you were asking me about it yesterday, I couldn’t even talk to you.”
Ruth Kisselburg of Yuma, Ariz., Blake’s step-grandmother, said he has always been successful.
“He’s just a really intelligent young man,” she said. “He’s been up and going everywhere. He’s always had charisma, so much so I’ve told him he should be a politician. He can charm all the ladies, but the men like him, too.”
Kisselburg said that Smith’s mother hadn’t wanted him to join the military either time.
“Georgina cried for two weeks when he enlisted,” she said.
The last e-mail she received from her grandson was in August.
“He planned to buy a car and drive across the whole USA and stop at every tourist stop in the whole country,” she said.