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Branch pierced Texas man's eye, went into his brain, in West Coast Trail accident

A Texas man is recovering in Victoria General Hospital after a branch pierced his left eye and rammed into his skull when he fell off a log while hiking on the rugged West Coast Trail.

A Texas man is being treated in Victoria General Hospital after a branch rammed through his left eye and into his brain when he fell off a log while hiking on the rugged West Coast Trail.

Edward Steinkamp, an aeronautical engineer from Allen, Texas, has lost sight in that eye and is battling an infection and swelling. His wife, Wendy, and son Bret — who had been hiking with him and two other friends when the May 3 fall occurred — are in Victoria with him.

Wendy and Bret have booked a hotel for two weeks and Bret, who lives in Portland, Oregon, has his vehicle here, but they are uncertain about what will unfold. “Everything is really fluid right now,” Bret, 28, said Sunday.

Edward initially went through an operation that removed the branch, while another procedure on Friday drained the infection. Cultures will help tailor the medicine needed or confirm he is on the right antibiotics, said Bret.

Wendy and Bret do not know anyone in Victoria.

Susan Lowe, a friend in Texas, set up a fundraising page that had raised $12,835 US of its $200,000 US goal for the family as of Monday.

Alan Steinkamp, Edward’s brother, said from Portland that his brother has insurance but it is unclear exactly what will be covered.

Lowe expects the costs will be enormous, citing everything from the airlift rescue to the surgery, drugs, scans and hospital stay, as well as hotel bills and the cost of driving him across the country to get home when he is finally released, since he won’t be able to fly.

“This fundraiser is so that Ed can concentrate on getting well and not worry about how he will take care of his family or pay for these bills,” the fundraising page says. “Ed has touched so many of our lives with kindness and laughter. He has never turned down any one of us whenever we have asked for help or in our time of need.”

Wendy and Bret are also asking people to send in backpacking photographs to help raise Edward’s spirits. They can be sent via email to basteinkamp@gmail.com.

Bret said the two are experienced backpackers who follow safety protocols — Edward has been backpacking since he was a teenager and runs marathons. The fall was a “random freak accident,” he said.

At the time, they were on day three of their hike and facing a section of mud about half a metre deep. A fallen tree, about two-thirds of a metre in diameter, was bisecting the trail, Bret said.

To avoid wading through the mud, Edward walked on the log but slipped off, falling onto the stick. Bret was a metre and a half behind his father.

Rescuers were called to the site near Cullite Cove. Pacheedaht First Nation guardians, Parks Canada’s visitor safety team, the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre and the 442 Search and Rescue Squadron out of Comox worked together to get the injured man to safety.

He was flown by helicopter to hospital, accompanied by Bret. Wendy flew to Victoria after learning of the accident.

— With a file from Darron Kloster.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com