Murrieta Fire Chief Recovering After 'Freak Accident'

Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert is recovering in the intensive care unit at Loma Linda Medical Cent...

Murrieta Fire Chief Matt Shobert is recovering in the intensive care unit at Loma Linda Medical Center tonight after surgery resulting from a freak accident suffered Wednesday morning.

Fire Capt. Matt Corelli said Shobert was doing well following the surgery and is expected to leave the ICU unit soon. He faces additional surgeries to repair extensive facial trauma, however.

According to Corelli, Shobert was walking below a slope upon which a fire department employee was operating an industrial-size mower to clear brush above the golf course in the Bear Creek gated community when he was struck by a rock propelled some distance by the machine.

Shobert was knocked to the ground and was unconscious for a short time, Corelli said. The operator of the mower did not notice what had happened. When Corelli came to, he was unsure of what had happened and assumed he might've been shot.

"He was unsure of what it was," Corelli said. "When a projectile comes out of nowhere and does that much damage, you don't know what's going on. With the climate around here recently, with the protests and all, that's what he had on his mind when he came to. There's no way he believed it could've been the mower from that distance."

Corelli said he wasn't sure about the distance between Shobert and the machine, but he said Shobert got in his vehicle and drove about 50 yards before being met by maintenance workers. He was transported to the hospital.

The original news release from Murrieta police reported only that a "fire department employee" was involved in an industrial accident. This came after multiple police units responded to the report of a possible shooting. The actual cause of the accident was determined later after a medical exam and discovery of the rock that was propelled by the mower.

"It truly was a freak accident," Corelli said. "There might be more probability you'd get hit in the face by a comet than be hit by a rock the way he was."

The injuries were to the left side of Shobert's face and did not involve injuries to the eyes or brain.

Shobert was appointed Fire Chief in 2011.

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