Petaluma athlete badly hurt in ATV accident

A Petaluma teen who suffered major injuries after his ATV flipped in west Petaluma was helped by a quick-thinking former Little League World Series teammate after the weekend crash.|

Bradley Smith, a member of the Petaluma Nationals all-star team that went to the Little League World Series in 2012, was badly hurt Saturday in an all-terrain vehicle accident and has undergone several surgeries at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Smith, 15, suffered multiple injuries in the accident on private property in west Petaluma on Saturday evening, including a broken right arm that caused severe bleeding, according to family friends.

Smith’s longtime friend and sports teammate Brendan O’Neill escaped injury and promptly called 911, then peeled off his shirt, attempted to stop the bleeding and got Smith to lie on the ground, said his father, Dennis O’Neill, a San Francisco firefighter.

“That’s pretty good for a 15-year-old kid” under extreme pressure, O’Neill said, noting that he and his son have often discussed emergency first aid. Dennis O’Neill declined to say whether his son’s actions saved Smith’s life.

On Monday night, Smith was recuperating from surgery and Brendan O’Neill was visiting him at the hospital.

Smith’s parents have been at the hospital since Saturday and were not available for comment, friends said. A hospital spokeswoman said she could not provide any information on Smith.

The two youths, friends since preschool, played basketball and baseball together over the years, and were teammates on the Petaluma High School freshman hoops team that just finished a 24-2 season.

O’Neill was critically injured on a Petaluma Little League ballfield the same year that Smith and his 12 cohorts on the all-star team made local sports history by finishing third at the nationally televised World Series in August at South Williamsport, Pa.

O’Neill’s baseball career came to a shocking, painful end in May 2012 when, on the pitching mound, the 12-year-old was struck in the forehead by a sharp line drive that fractured his skull and broke his nose. His coach described the sound of the impact as “sickening.”

O’Neill gave up baseball and was told by doctors not to play any hard contact sport, such as football or lacrosse, but he continued playing basketball. As teammates at Petaluma Junior High for two years, O’Neill and Smith led the roundballers to a 32-0 record.

Smith, who stands over 6 feet and weighs over 200 pounds, was “two grades bigger than everybody” all his athletic life, Dennis O’Neill said.

“He’s a special boy,” said Andy Isetta, the freshman team coach at Petaluma High.

In an email Sunday night, Isetta said that Smith sustained a broken left forearm, a broken neck vertebra and a compound break in his right arm that severed an artery.

“At this time the good news is that the blood flow to his right arm is getting stronger,” Isetta said. Smith’s spinal cord was not damaged and he is “able to move his feet and fingers,” he said.

In a posting Monday on Smith’s page of the CaringBridge website, his aunt, Wendy Barker, said his neck surgery was a “complete success,” and that Smith “should make a very good recovery there, with only a loss of about five to seven degrees of motion.”

Additional surgery on Smith’s arms was scheduled for Monday afternoon to clean the wound and get “a clearer idea of how things are progressing.” Barker said Smith’s breathing tubes might be removed and that he might be taken off sedation Monday night.

Eric Smith, the all-star team’s coach, said Smith, who is no relation, O’Neill and a third youth were riding a four-wheel ATV that overturned, apparently rolling over on Smith. The boys were riding down to pick up mail when the accident occurred, he said. The CHP had no report of the accident.

Eric Smith, who coached Bradley for five years, described him as “a quiet kid” who is “great to be around.”

“Bradley’s such a great kid,” Smith said. “Everybody wants to be there to support him.”

Twelve people have died in ATV accidents in Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties since 2010.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or

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