Saturday, November 14, 2020

Peter Spradling: "It just was not my time to die"

Van's RV-6A, N48PS

Peter Spradling

A foggy Saturday morning brings with it many runners, joggers and dog walkers traversing the neighborhoods of Victoria. Among them is Peter Spradling, an example of unbreakable spirit in overcoming physical strife every day.

He greets other joggers, takes inventory of the neighborhood’s cats — making sure to give them a scratch — and pushes to walk 2-3 miles through his neighborhood and the Lone Tree Hike and Bike Trail every day, steadily improving since being rendered immobile after a traumatic accident earlier this year.

A 73-year-old retired U.S. Air Force endodontist, Spradling fosters hobbies ranging from photography to tinkering with electronics, but chief among them is piloting his personal aircraft — an RV-6A kit plane he built over the course of 18 years with his wife Sandy.

“Often we would take the morning and go to places like Fredericksburg to get breakfast at the fly-in diner next to their airport,” Spradling said. “A lovely way to spend the morning, I’d say.”

When performing a pre-flight condition inspection earlier this year, he was struck by the propeller of his plane at the Victoria Regional Airport. Gravely injured and bleeding profusely from impacts on his head and arms, his wife called 911 to request assistance.

Spradling said he does not remember much but recalls making a conscious decision not to succumb to his injuries.

“When I was lying on the ground bleeding, it occurred to me that it would be very easy to just lay there for five more minutes, and I wouldn’t be here anymore,” Spradling said, recounting that hot July morning. “I just remember telling myself, ‘Nope, you’re still alive. You’re going to get better, and you’re going to fight through this.’”

In addition to the life-saving measures taken by Victoria EMTs on-scene and in-transit to Citizens Medical Center, he received a whole blood transfusion in lieu of a more traditional saline solution — a pioneering treatment implemented by Victoria EMS a little more than a year ago. This greatly increased Spradling’s chances at survival, Victoria Fire Department Battalion Chief Tim Hunter said.

“It’s hard to say, but I would say the blood played a critical role in saving his life along with some of the other treatments we used,” Hunter said. “With the amount of blood he was losing, it is very possible he might not have made it to the hospital alive.”

Spradling was thankful.

“Due to their professionalism and timely response, I’m still alive and making a slow recovery,” Spradling wrote in a November 2nd letter to the editor for the Victoria Advocate. “I want everyone involved to know we are extremely grateful for their response and their professionalism in everything they did in my time of need.”

From the Citizens Medical Center Level II trauma center, he was flown by helicoptered to Brooke Army Medical Trauma I center in San Antonio. Over the course of a month, he underwent six surgeries aiming to restore his arms to working condition.

Returning home, a small group of friends has worked together to help Spradling with once-simple daily tasks that are now challenging.

“People have volunteered and have expressed their interest in giving them things to eat and making trips to the grocery store,” Carl Chance said, a fellow pilot and close friend of Spradling’s. “We want them to know they’re not on their own.”

Spradling currently sees Ed Kimes, an occupational therapist who specializes in hands, wrists and elbows, three times a week at Citizens HealthPlex. Kimes said Spradling’s case is interesting because of the variety of treatments used during a single session.

“There’s a lot going on,” Kimes said. “We’re working with edema, range of motion. We’re massaging. It’s a very unique case, and he has done very well.”

Spradling and Kimes often banter during their sessions, lighting up the room and showcasing the pilot’s good spirits during the long healing process.

“Of course, I can’t pull rank over his head because he is a doctor, and he’ll correct me a bunch of times,” Kimes said with a smile. “He’s a blast to work with.”

Spradling said he is happy to be alive and is motivated to push through any challenges for his wife Sandy.

“It just wasn’t my time to die, and I decided I’m going live for my wife,” Spradling said. “I am just beyond thankful for my friends that have really come through in my time of need, some of which have gone above and beyond.”


  1. I do not know the circumstances behind this unfortunate accident but please treat every propeller as live,and that means not pulling on them ! I have seen props kick into life from even cold,it happens,

    1. Yep. My instructor drilled that in my head with horror stories like a high school kid seeing crash video deaths in driver's education class. And that was with a 172 with no keys even inserted in the ignition yet when doing the pre-flight. He always said treat a prop like an outlet that you think is turned off from the fuse box but may not be.

  2. If you understand the switch control of magneto ignitions, you know that the key switch does not supply power to the mag. The key switch turns "off" the magnetos by connecting the p-leads to ground.

    If a p-lead connection is loose or any of the switch contacts faulty, either or both mags can become un-grounded and ready to operate, even in the off position and key removed.

  3. Or worn keys that can be pulled out in the both position. I've found that on several occasions and is the first thing I check preflighting.


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