Injured Rehberg Aide Back at Work After Boating Accident

Posted October 27, 2009 at 6:13pm

Dustin Frost, state director for Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), is back on the job following the August boat accident involving Rehberg and others that left the aide in a coma for more than a week.Frost sustained the worst injuries — a skull fracture and brain trauma — of those on the motorboat that crashed into the rocky shores of Flathead Lake, Mont., on the night of Aug. 27. In addition to Frost and Rehberg, others on the boat included Rehberg Deputy Chief of Staff Kristin Smith, state Sen. Greg Barkus (R) and his wife.“He’s back at work,— Rehberg said Tuesday. “He passed his driving test and he’s fine and he’s back to work.—Frost has been undergoing extensive therapy since early September, namely to help him regain speech and memory. As recently as Oct. 11, Frost still had a feeding tube and was undergoing “several tests and evaluations,— according to a Web site maintained by Frost’s family.“I’ll let you know that I’ve got very little memory of what happened or how bad this thing was,— Frost himself posted on Sept. 27.“I definitely have some problems with some memory, word recognition, and some other things related to my brain,— Frost wrote, citing an instance where he forgot the name of broccoli on his plate. “Also … I can’t make the left side of my face move and I can’t hear very well from my left ear. The doctors and therapists are telling me that these things will get better over time.— Barkus was driving the boat when it crashed and faces felony charges of criminal endangerment and negligent vehicular assault. Prosecutors in the case, which has barred the state lawmaker from contacting Rehberg or others in the accident, say Barkus’ blood-alcohol content that night — 0.16 when taken two hours after the crash — was twice the legal limit for driving. On Monday, Barkus pleaded not guilty to the charges. Rehberg has not played a role in Barkus’ legal case and has not been charged with anything, although he had been drinking that night. He said he is not worried about the incident hurting him politically.“It was an accident. [Barkus] gave us a ride across the lake and back again and it was an accident,— said Rehberg, who is still on crutches from breaking his ankle in the incident. “It’s amazing how many people come up and say, ‘How are you doing?’ … People really aren’t trying to make a political issue out of it.—Nobody, that is, except Dennis McDonald, a Democratic challenger who has tried to use the incident against Rehberg. He has accused Rehberg of being drunk and irresponsibly leading his staffers onto the boat before it crashed.“I assume [the incident] will be brought up— by McDonald’s campaign, Rehberg said, although he predicted his opponent’s attempt to capitalize politically on the incident would fall flat. The Montana Republican said he doesn’t feel shaken up from the incident. “I kind of jokingly say I’m a clumsy rancher. It’s not the first time I’ve been on crutches. I fell off a cliff fencing,— he said.