Pastor Connie Hallowell, from eMkhomazi, believes it was a “miracle” that he survived a near-death experience when he accidentally triggered his spear gun and shot himself in the face.
Hallowell, 48, the pastor at City Hill Church and an avid scuba diver, was flown to a hospital in Pietermaritzburg where the spear was cut out of his face following the freak incident.
He told the Sunday Tribune that the accident near Scottburgh’s main beach was the first time he had been injured since he became a scuba diver more than a decade ago.
Speaking on Saturday from the hospital, with his wife Cathy and their two daughters, Cayla and Katie, at his bedside, Hallowell said he felt “good and strong” after the emergency operation that took about 45 minutes to remove the spear. Recalling the incident, he said that he was fishing for crayfish when the incident happened.
“I put my gun down while I was trying to get some sinkers out of the rocks. A big wave came, and with that wave in action, I tried to remove the gun, and the trigger went off and fired the spear into my face.”
The pastor said it felt as if someone had hit him, but he knew that no one else was around.
“When I tried to move my head, I couldn’t, and I realised it was a spear. I managed to stand up, and I just thought let me stay awake. I screamed for people to help me while I walked back towards the shore.”
Hallowell said he was blinded by the blood on his mask and applauded the paramedics and fellow fishermen for their prompt response. He said although he usually dived with a partner, he was alone when he injured himself.
“The fishermen came very quick. They were fantastic. They managed to help me in a short period. I sat down on the beach. They tried to cut down the spear with a bolt cutter, which caused immense pain. Eventually, they managed to get an angle grinder and an extension cord, and they cut the spear short.”
After that, he was taken to an ambulance and then airlifted to Netcare St Anne’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg where he was operated by a maxillo-facial and oral surgeon Dr Ciaran Eamon Lalor.
Lalor said removing the spear from Hallowell’s face was an easy task, and there were no severe complications.
“He was very lucky, given the fact that the spear went through his face. There was a minor bone fracture and a lot of sand that we had to remove. He was not swollen, and he had no bruises. He could walk on the street, and no one would notice.
“We took several scans to determine the extent of the damage, and it shows that the spear missed all the vital things in the face.”
Lalor said Hallowell could see and talk without any problem.
Hallowell confirmed that he was recovering well and he sounded both normal and could speak fluently.
“I can see, I can talk, everything is going well. I’ve got a bit of numbness, but I will be much better.”
Hallowell said he has no plans to quit spearfishing and could not wait to get back to the water once he has fully recovered.