LIVINGSTON — An 8-year-old boy has been hospitalized after the accidental discharge of a rifle Thursday night.
Noah Bowles was with his 13-year old cousin, according to Grant County Sheriff Nate Dreckman, and no adults were present in the Livingston home at the time of the accident.
The 13-year-old had learned the combination to the home’s gun safe and took out a Marlin .22 rifle, which he then proceeded to load and unload several times, according to the Sheriff’s Office report. The gun was discharged when the teen thought it was unloaded. However, a round remained in the chamber and the 8-year-old was struck in the face just below the left nostril.
The teen called 911 stating that a child had been shot at the residence just after 8 p.m.
The mother of the 8-year-old was quickly located and came to the scene.
Noah was conscious and alert when emergency services arrived. He was transported to Southwest Health Center in Platteville, and then flown to University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa by Air Care. The boy underwent surgery and is in stable condition as of Monday afternoon.
Assisting at the scene were Livingston First Responders, Livingston Fire Department, Montfort EMS, Southwest Health EMS, and the Iowa County Sheriff’s Department.
A gift and gas card drive is under way in Livingston to assist the child’s family with travel and related expenses during his recovery. Gift and gas card donations for Noah’s parents, Heather and Jason Bowles, may be mailed or dropped off at Community First Bank, at 125 Center St. in Livingston.
The gift/gas card fundraiser was organized by Iowa–Grant students, according to Sheila Ruchti, senior vice president of Community First Bank, and additional fundraisers are planned. Ruchti said the Lucky Stars 4-H and several other community organizations are currently planning events to assist the family during the boy’s hospital stay and recovery.
“We and the entire community cannot thank people enough for their support for this family,” said Ruchti. “You could not find a better family. They have done so much for this community and being able to help them at this time is so important.”
Safety highlighted by law enforcement
Dreckman used his press conference for the accidental shooting to highlight the need for education and safety precautions in homes with guns. He stressed that children need to be taught the potential risks of handling guns and basic gun handling safety whenever they can come into contact with guns.
“Whether it’s paintball, airsoft, all these toy guns that are made to look so realistic, we as a society have almost made it OK in some aspects,” said Dreckman. “You really need to sit down and say, ‘This is a real firearm. If you point this at somebody and pull the trigger, they can die.’”
Dreckman also suggested treating ammunition as an item to be safely and securely locked away, saying it should be locked in a separate location from guns to reduce risk.
Many police departments offer free gun locks to anyone who will use them. The locks are provided by the national program Project Childsafe, developed and supported by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“Fennimore Police Department would like to remind the Fennimore community we have free gun locks available to anybody who will use them,” said Police Chief Christopher French in response to the accidental shooting. “They can be picked up from the police department or city clerk’s office.”
UPDATE: 2:50 p.m., Feb. 1, 2018: Noah has undergone one surgery to repair his toungue and a second surgery is scheduled to repair the roof of his mounth, according to Heather Bowles, his mother.
"As of today, he was able to have the ventilator removed and is breathing on his own without oxygen," she said in the early morning hours Thursday. "He is in stable condition, but will have a long road ahead of him between his other surgery, doctor visits and therapy."