Some of the uncertainty over Bridger Hunt's future seemed to lift Tuesday, but the questions are just beginning for the man accused of causing his injury.
Prosecutors announced felony charges against Craig A. Miller, 45, Lehi, Tuesday, including a second-degree felony count of possession or control of an explosive or incendiary device and two third-degree felony counts of child abuse and obstruction of justice.
Miller's homemade firework exploded and sliced into the 11-year-old Orem boy on July 24 as the boy was riding his bike.
Bridger is still in critical condition at Primary Children's Medical Center. But Tuesday afternoon, doctors predicted that, barring an unforeseen complication, his badly damaged leg will be saved. His chance of walking, however, is "impossible to speak to," according to Dr. Eric Scaife, head of trauma services. It is very unlikely he will regain a normal gait; he will most likely need at least a cane or walker.
Over the next few days, doctors will begin to wake him, weaning him from medications that have kept him unconscious. Those used to paralyze him have already been removed.
During a 13-hour surgery that stretched to 4 a.m. Tuesday morning, three specialty teams tackled different aspects of his injury, Scaife said. The surgeon said he "thinks it looks likely" the limb will be salvaged. It's clear, he said, that the boy will remain in the hospital for "at least a month or two." His biggest hurdle is likely to be infection.
But his youth is on his side. "His kidneys, his heart, his blood vessels are great," Scaife said.
Miller's attorney Mark Ethington had not seen the official charges when contacted by phone late Tuesday, but said he was surprised by two of them.
"One (count) is child abuse, which my gut reaction to that is, it doesn't seem appropriate whatsoever in this particular case," Ethington said. "Obstruction of justice I'm kind of baffled at. Because from what I know, from my client and from other sources, my client has done everything that he possibly can to be cooperative."
Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson said his office has information that indicates Miller was not fully forthright with police after the blast.
"Based on information contained in the police report ... we will be able to show beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that he did obstruct justice by hiding or disposing or concealing materials while an investigation was going on," Johnson said.
Ethington emphasized that the device that accidentally exploded that night was a firework, not a bomb.
"There was no criminal intent on Mr. Miller's part," he said. "He did not do anything intending to cause anyone harm of any kind."
Ethington said his client's main focus is still Bridger.
"Craig Miller is very concerned about the health of the young boy," Ethington said. "His thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family."
That Miller was not arrested, but was sent a summons to appear in 4th District Court, pleased Mindy Carter-Shaw, Bridger's mother. Law officials "are respecting my wishes as much as possible," she said during a press conference at Primary Children's Medical Center Tuesday. "There's no reason for him to be in jail. It just hurts his family. We're already hurt."
Carter-Shaw said that Miller cannot fulfill his promise to help Bridger if he's behind bars, and suggested that Miller could perform community service while continuing to work and support his own family.
"All I care about is my son," Carter-Shaw said, adding that the outcome of Miller's prosecution will not make a difference to Bridger. "It's never going to bring his leg back, it's never going to bring his stomach back, it's never going to bring his bottom back."
But Carter-Shaw expressed her belief that regardless of Bridger's current circumstances, he is going to recover.
"We're going to find ways to keep him active. He's just a cool kid," she said. "He's not going to be stopped."
During the 13-hour surgery, Dr. Thomas Higgins, an orthopedic surgeon, washed out the wound and removed injured tissue, then stabilized Bridger's shattered pelvis and hip with metal plates and screws.
Next, vascular surgeon Dr. Daniel Kinikini took out the synthetic graft that had been initially used in his wound to repair his femoral artery and replaced it with a vein harvested from deep within the boy's left thigh. Because the damage was so great, the synthetic material itself could increase the risk of infection and was only intended as a temporary measure.
Finally, plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Rodney Schmelzer created a muscle flap from his left leg. It will provide blood and help fill the large cavity created by the blast, providing healthy tissue. The open wound is now a little smaller than a dinner plate, Scaife said, and needs to heal some before a skin graft can be used to close it.
In the lower part of his leg Bridger also has had fasciotomies where the fascia, or connective tissue, is cut to prevent muscle from being strangled by swelling.
Now doctors and family must wait and see whether the muscles in his leg will take to their new location and whether the pins in his hip will be sufficient to repair the shattered hip bones.
Miller, meantime, also has a civil attorney, Bryan Larson, who will help with financial and insurance issues.
Johnson acknowledged that Carter-Shaw has been very compassionate to Miller.
"She doesn't want to do anything that will jeopardize Mr. Miller's ability to earn money to help subsidize the medical bills of Bridger ... or anything else that would have a negative impact on his job," Johnson said. "We've told her that we ... will balance those interests with others as we go on."
Ethington said Miller has homeowner's insurance, which may help with some of Bridger's mounting medical bills.Those who wish to donate may do so at any branch of Central Bank or Zions Bank.