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Whatever happened to: New Year's gunshot victim Diego Duran

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When a doctor told Diego Duran that he could skateboard again, the 13-year-old was ecstatic.

"A big smile spread across my face," he said.

But he soon learned that a year without practice had left him a bit rusty.

"I fell and hit my tailbone on the concrete and hurt my arm," he said. "I need to get used to the ramps again."

Still, he is thankful he got the opportunity to try again at all.

It has been almost a year since Diego was struck by a stray bullet while watching fireworks outside his family's home in Ruskin on New Year's Day. Diego spent five months in the hospital with severe injuries to his head and brain.

Now, as the anniversary approaches, it's hard to tell anything happened at all.

"Ask him how he's doing and he says fine," said Sandy Duran, Diego's mom, at a recent news conference to raise awareness on the dangers of celebratory gunfire. "He forgets there's anything wrong."

His memory sometimes falters and he has a shunt to drain fluid from his brain, Duran said. There's also a constricted artery to keep an eye on. But none of that has seemed to slow him down.

Through it all, the eighth-grader at Beth Shields Middle School has stayed on track with his education. His favorite subjects are science and physical education.

And skateboarding is still a favorite hobby, even if it is a bit more difficult now. He even has a special place to skate. Earlier this year, the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department named the Apollo Beach skate park in his honor.

To help prevent future injuries from celebratory gunfire, the family formed Bullet Free Sky, an organization aimed at raising awareness.

The organization sells T-shirts, wristbands and stickers in its online store. There are also posters available for download.

On Thursday, Diego and his mother visited some area fireworks stands and handed out posters encouraging people to shoot fireworks instead of guns. Just leave the guns at home, Duran said.

"I'm not against guns, I'm against people shooting guns into the air," she told one fireworks stand employee. A bullet can travel 2 miles when shot into the air, she said.

This year, the Durans are not taking any chances. They'll be ringing in the new year safely inside their home.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2442.

For more information on Bullet Free Sky, visit bulletfreesky.com.

Whatever happened to: New Year's gunshot victim Diego Duran 12/29/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 29, 2012 3:31am]

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