A 17-year-old off-roader dragged for a block behind a pick-up truck after a traffic collision continues to respond well to ongoing medical care.

"They did surgery on him today, and they took out his breathing tubes and his feeding tubes," Marilyn Horsley, the mother of Aaron Horsley, said Friday evening, after leaving Loma Linda Medical Center. "He has a [tracheotomy] now and a feeding tube directly into his stomach."

Horsley's upper spinal column (vertebrae T2 through T9) were fused together after the Hesperia High School student was dragged behind a white Chevrolet Silverado pick-up truck with temporary license plates on Wednesday, October 10. Horsley was riding an off-road bike on city streets near the intersection of Redwood Avenue and Kimball Street when he was struck by the white Chevy.

"He was a little bit alert today," his mother said. "He did respond to messages with his eyes and he did mouth things, but he can't actually speak with his trach yet."

Initial fears that he would be rendered a quadriplegic by his injuries have passed: By Tuesday, he was only paralyzed from mid-thigh down, after previously suffering paralysis from the chest down. His paralysis hasn't been tested recently, as doctors don't want to cause him additional stress, now that Horsley's level of medication has been tapered back and he's more aware of his situation.

"He's improving very quickly," Marilyn Horsley said. "They're just amazed at how quickly he's bouncing back from everything."

On Sunday, Horsley underwent 11 hours of microsurgery to reconstruct his hands, which had dragged along the road as he was pulled behind the Chevy pick-up driven by the unknown motorist.

Although Horsley's right hand just needed a skin graft, his left hand was rebuilt using tendons and veins harvested from elsewhere in his body.

"His skin grafting has taken very well."

As for Horsley's older brother Chris, who was pulled out of Iraq after his brother was hospitalized, he will not be returning to the Suuni Triangle: His unit is scheduled to return to the United States on October 26 and once Chris' leave in the High Desert ends, he will be returning to North Carolina for debriefing and leaving the Army in December.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department investigators continue to investigate the October 10 incident. Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to call the Hesperia sheriff's station at 947-1500 or the anonymous WE-TIP line at (800) 782-7463.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.