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Rehberg Released From Hospital; Staffer Remains Unconscious

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) was released from a Montana hospital Monday after being injured in a serious boating accident last week with four others including a state legislator and two staffers, one of whom has been unconscious since the crash.Rehberg suffered a broken ankle and fractures around his eye after the 22-foot motorboat in which he was riding crashed into rocks along the shore of Flathead Lake, Mont., on Thursday night. State Senate Majority Whip Greg Barkus (R), his wife, Kathy, and two Rehberg aides — deputy chief of staff Kristen Smith and state director Dustin Frost — were also in the accident.“Jan and I are very grateful for the overwhelming support and prayers we’ve received from around the country. I also want to thank the excellent staff and administrators at Kalispell Regional Medical Center for the outstanding care I received. While it’s good to be heading home, my thoughts and prayers remain with Dustin, Kristen, Greg, Kathy and their families,” Rehberg, 53, said in a statement.Smith is expected to be released from the hospital later Monday. The others are still receiving care, including Frost, who has significant brain injuries and has been unconscious since the incident.Erik Iverson, a former Rehberg chief of staff and a family friend, said the Congressman can now walk on crutches and will be recovering at his home in Billings. It is unclear if Rehberg will return to Washington, D.C., when Congress gavels in next week.In his fifth term as Montana’s lone Congressman, Rehberg can “absolutely” do his job from Billings, although he won’t be able to cast any votes, Iverson said. “He’s able to do work on his BlackBerry. ... His right eye, which was swollen shut, has opened up in the past 24 hours. He can see out of both eyes now, which obviously makes reading a lot easier.”Asked if Frost is in a coma, Iverson said he didn’t know “what you’d describe it,” saying only that he is “stable and sedated.” Iverson said he hasn’t heard any talk about the level of recovery expected for Frost, except that “everyone’s optimistic he’s going to recover.”Reports say Barkus was driving the boat when it crashed after 10 p.m. Thursday; he has since hired an attorney to respond to all related questions. One detail that remains unclear is whether alcohol played a role in the accident. Though Barkus’ blood-alcohol level has not been released, Rehberg’s registered at the hospital about three hours after the crash at .05, below the legal limit of .08.Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Flathead Sheriff’s Department are conducting separate investigations into the incident. At least Rehberg and Smith have already been interviewed by both. Iverson said he has hasn’t heard about anyone filing charges.Several lawmakers have been calling to check in on Rehberg, including Montana Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, as well as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), a close friend of Rehberg’s, has also called for updates.

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