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Roanoke doctor recovers, recalls glider crash that nearly took his life

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) -- Wharton Ramsey is in rehabilitation at South Roanoke Nursing Home, six weeks after his glider crashed in Montgomery County.

Ramsey said he's never spent a day in a hospital, never broken a bone or even been hurt until now.

"Oh my injuries. Oh my goodness, you want to litany," he asked in jest.

He suffered a collapsed lung, broken ribs and vertebrae, pelvic fractures and two broken ankles.

"I was pretty far down for a long time but I think we're out of immediate danger now," he said.

The Roanoke dentist was nearing the end of a glider race with the Blue Ridge Soaring Society out of New Castle September 24 when he crashed.

"We were racing through over the hills the mountains valleys of southwest Virginia and I got a bit lower than I meant to," he explained.

Dr. Ramsey was forced to land in a farmer's field in McCoy but hit power lines first.

"I looked down and I said I'm going to die. And I meant it. I was pretty sure I was going to die."

He survived. Saved, he says, by farmer Joe Broce.


"What saved my life right then was the farmer on whose land I landed. I scared his cattle. He saw his cattle running."

Ramsey said he talked to Broce on the phone Wednesday when he learned Broce not only came to his rescue that day, but how Broce happened across something to use as a tourniquet when minutes mattered.

"He looked on the ground and there is a strip of cloth about 3" x 2' just happen to be right there. You figure the odds of having that there. I imagine if he had been five minutes later I would have bled out. We wouldn't be here having this interview."

During the next 40 minutes, Ramsey guesses he was conscious for three minutes.

"I remember the womp, womp, womp of the chopper coming in."

Lifeguard flew him to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where he recalls seeing his wife, Ellen peering in as he was rolled into the hospital.

"I think my feet are beautiful," he joked. "They're my toes still."

Ramsey praises all the doctors and nurses involved in his care. Doctors managed to save both his legs

"The ankles were terribly broken. But my son said, 'Well Dad, at least you landed on your feet.' Which wasn't very funny," he said laughing.

Ramsey hopes to start walking by December but says his 45 years of flying are done.

I'm going to take up new pursuits now. I probably won't do anymore gliding. I've been there done that wonderful I had a great time doing it but there are other things to do."

Until then, he continues rehabilitation, including a little K9 therapy with their dog, Rubin. He's eager to get back to his dental practice in January.

Ramsey says he looks forward to meeting Broce, the man who first saved his life.