A cameraman for Major League Fishing was seriously injured after he was struck in the face with a 1-ounce tungsten weight while filming during the final day of the TV show’s latest event last week at Lake Eufaula along the Alabama-Georgia border.
Dan Larson, 58, a freelance photographer and six-year veteran of MLF’s production crew, was filming in a competitor’s boat Saturday during the championship round when the angler missed a hook set on a fish. The weight and Texas-rigged bait came out of the water and struck Larson’s sunglasses, which shattered and sent fragments of the lens into his right eye.
He immediately dropped the camera and fell to his knees. A local angler who was watching the action and happened to be an EMT quickly rushed over and administered the initial first aid before Larson was rushed back to shore where local paramedics met him. He was taken to a local hospital before being airlifted to the UAB Eye Care Center in Birmingham.
“The whole thing was pretty fluky,” Larson told BassFan over the phone from his girlfriend’s home in Buffalo, N.Y. “Normally, when guys are punching, they’re making short flips, but it was the perfect storm. Another MLF angler had pulled in behind us and my angler said to turn and get a shot of him, so I oriented myself toward the rear of the boat to get that shot. I then started to turn to my right back toward the front of the boat.
“Rather than move the boat forward, the angler made a longer flip toward the edge of the mat. Normally, my head is in the viewfinder and on the angler all the time. Just from repositioning myself in the boat, I had my head of out of the viewfinder simultaneous to him setting the hook.”
He said there was no way to brace for the impact.
“It was like getting shot in the eye with a deer slug,” he said. “Earlier in the day, it was clear the fish weren’t eating the bait real well and I’d watched him set the hook several times and come up empty with the weight flying up over his head. I’d actually had the thought earlier in the day that I hope I don’t get tagged by one of these. While I was spinning, I couldn’t pick up on any cue that he was going to set the hook. It all happened at the same time.”
The competition was halted for approximately 20 minutes while Larson was taken to shore. The lost time was added to the end of the championship round.
The name of the competitor was not released as it would violate confidentiality agreements MLF maintains in order to protect the outcomes of its events prior to them airing on Outdoor Channel.
Larson underwent two surgeries over the weekend to remove some of the fragments and repair his eyelid. He was released from the hospital on Tuesday and flew to Buffalo, where a member of his girlfriend’s family is a neuro ophthalmologist. He will require additional treatments, possibly as early as next week, either in Buffalo or in Boston.
“The good news was today (Wednesday) was the first day they didn’t pull additional pieces of glass out of the eye,” Larson said.
The prognosis is as good as one could hope for after such a scary accident. He said surgeons determined the muscle that controls the side-to-side tracking of the eye was severed and that could limit his ability to move his eye in toward his nose.
“At this point, I should regain my vision,” he said. “I’m able to discern shadow shapes and to a certain extent numbers of fingers, but it’s pretty jacked up right now from all the ointments in there.
“It’s been an ordeal,” Larson added. “I have great people around me and all the doctors are doing a phenomenal job. They all have said how lucky I am to still have an eye.”
The incident, while accidental, has prompted MLF to review its protocol for how officials handle emergency situations in the future. According to an MLF communications official, “The position of the camera operator was not the issue in this instance. It was an unfortunate accident and both the angler and the MLF boat official and staff back at the ramp acted quickly to treat and assist as quickly as possible.”