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Cyclist injured in deadly crash making strides

Published: Apr. 22, 2014 at 8:26 AM CDT
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Doctors treating a tri athlete who was severely injured April 11 in an accident in New Orleans East are seeing progress.

The crash claimed the life of Atlanta firefighter Frank Guinn and left Guinn's brother-in-law, Andrew Powell, with major spinal cord injuries.

Powell and Guinn were in New Orleans training for the Ironman Triathlon when a car rear-ended the two as they rode bicycles along Chef Menteur Highway.

"Being a tri athlete, they told me he's so much stronger than the normal person," said Atlanta Fire Rescue Lt. Brian Garner. "So, he was able to hit three major surgeries right together."

Garner has spent several days in the area following the crash. With Guinn's death, Garner lost a close friend and colleague. Now he's focused on supporting Powell, who remains at the Interim LSU Hospital.

Over the weekend, Powell made strides in his recovery. He is now out of ICU and looking toward the next step. According to Garner, doctors plan to move Powell to a spinal center in Atlanta, possibly as early as this weekend.

"He's got a long way to go," Garner said. "He's got a lot of lower extremity issues - pelvis, legs, ankles. So there's a long road of rehab to go. [He has a] really positive attitude, [he's] motivated. Told me he's going to do everything he can. He wants back in a triathlon as soon as he can. So, you know, that's his spirit and it's shifted. He wants to do all that for Frank."

The Atlanta Fire Rescue Department held a memorial for Guinn last week, while a group of cyclists rode in Guinn's honor in New Orleans East over the weekend adding to an outpouring of support from people across the metro area.

"The family wanted me to say thank you, on behalf of both sides, to the city, to the fire department, and then, you know, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department also would like to say thanks to the City of New Orleans for all they've done," Garner said.

Atlanta Fire Rescue says a memorial fund for Guinn has been set up through Wells Fargo, while donations can also be made at New Orleans fire stations.

The driver accused in the crash, 34-year-old Howard Vidrine, faces several charges, including negligent homicide and negligent injury.