A family reunited

People, pet separated after truck crashed into home last week

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Jeffrey Groat was reunited with his teacup great dane Burke Saturday morning after the dog fled his home following the accident where a vehicle crashed through his home Thursday evening.

COEUR d'ALENE - Without a home and doubtful of when he will be able to return to work, Jeffrey Groat has a long road ahead of him.

But some much needed hope came Monday when he and his girlfriend, Sherri Bloom, were reunited, for the first time since Thursday, away from Kootenai Health. The couple, and Bloom's 10-year-old daughter, were injured last week when a truck crashed through Groat's Coeur d'Alene home.

"We have some good news here for a change," Groat said.

For Groat and Bloom, the events of Nov. 7 are hazy at best. Bloom's daughter, Lyra Vonk, has the clearest memory of the night.

Lyra was teaching Groat how to play a card game in Groat's home on Hattie Avenue. The three were sitting near the fireplace - keeping warm and talking - as Groat displayed his knack for the card game by winning several times in a row.

"You should have seen the excitement dances," Bloom said.

While the three were playing cards, Groat's "teacup Great Dane," Burke, was resting on a love seat.

In the midst of this, a truck allegedly driven by an intoxicated Thomas Heinbaugh drove through four walls of the house.

The last thing Lyra heard before blacking out was a "big, loud, rumble." She woke up and found herself staring at the front tire of the truck.

Lyra couldn't see her mother, who at the time was hanging halfway outside the house in serious condition.

Groat said he now "vaguely" recalls waking up, pinned under the truck, looking at the dials of his washing machine.

"I saw Burke," Lyra said. "He stared at me because I was the only one he was able to see, and then he ran away."

All three were transported to Kootenai Health to receive treatment for their injuries and Burke may have run after them. The dog went missing following the crash, and several people reported seeing him near the hospital.

"He had to have followed us," Groat said. "I mean that dog is like a shadow on me."

Lyra sustained a dislocated hip and had to have several stitches on her elbow. She was released Friday from Kootenai Health.

Groat sustained five broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a broken shoulder, as well as a severe gash on his leg that required 150 stitches.

Bloom sustained the most serious injuries.

"I'm pretty sure I caught every piece of flying glass that was in that place," Bloom said. "I broke my neck and had a lacerated liver."

While Groat and Bloom were still in the hospital, friends and family began searching for Burke, missing since the night of the crash.

"Once he (Groat) found out we were OK, everything was about Burke," Bloom said. "Every other sentence was 'Where's Burke?'"

On Saturday morning Burke was returned to a family friend by an anonymous Hayden resident who found the animal Thursday night.

A surprise reunion between dog and master was set up.

"When they told me they were going to take me outside for some fresh air I was wondering why no one was talking about my dog," Groat said. "I thought he had gotten run over, it was terrible."

But Groat's 80-pound, four-legged companion was waiting to say hello.

"It was unbelievable," Groat said. "It made my day. I didn't even feel my broken bones then."

On Monday, the reunited family relaxed at Bloom's home in Coeur d'Alene. Groat said that the road ahead is "going to be a huge battle," but on Monday, he was not worried about that.

"The good news is everyone is walking and talking," Groat said.

Jeffrey Groat, far right, and Sherri Bloom listen as Lyra Vonk, 10, recounts the story of a vehicle crashing through Groat’s home last week.

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