The Dade City electric company executive shot last weekend in a hunting accident appears to have suffered worse injuries than were initially reported.
Billy E. Brown, the longtime general manager of the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, remained in critical but stable condition Monday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa.
After the accident, Brown lost three liters of blood and family members initially feared he might not survive. But Brown's daughter said Monday that she believes he will recover.
"He's in the best shape for what he's been through," said Laura Brown Melton. "We're cautiously optimistic he can get through this."
Added company spokesman David Lambert: "He's a tough old bird. He'll pull through."
Brown, 78, was injured early Saturday morning when he and a friend went deer hunting north of Wesley Chapel. The two men were traveling down a bumpy, rocky road in a pickup truck when Brown's bulldog got excited and knocked into a high-powered Browning .308-caliber rifle, authorities said.
The dog, named Eli, was moving back and forth between the front and back seats of the extended cab. The gun was between the two men, pointed skyward. The dog knocked the rifle toward Brown's right leg while his paw also switched off the safety and pulled the trigger.
The shooting occurred on privately owned land roughly 1.5 miles from the intersection of Old Pasco and Gilette roads.
The name of the fellow hunter was not released, though Lambert said the two men have been friends for 35 years. A spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a report on the incident would be completed over the next few weeks.
Melton said she is upset that some media outlets have portrayed the story as a lighthearted "pooch shoots owner" tale. She said her father did everything correctly, including activating the gun's safety.
"It's critical, horrible," she said. "Not funny."
Brown was hit in the right thigh, with the bullet striking the bone and also damaging the femoral artery, a major source of blood flow.
Melton said her father went four hours without a transfusion. He has received 12 units of blood so far.
Brown had surgery Saturday afternoon. As of Monday, the bone had not been set because doctors were still cleaning the wound.
Melton said doctors were concerned about the amount of stress Brown's heart suffered. Because of his age, she is also worried about complications that could arise from the injury. She said Brown is on a ventilator and can make only limited communications with visitors.
"He is able to blink his eyes at me," Melton said. "When I say, 'I love you, Daddy,' he will blink his eyes."
Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.