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Mears told he couldnt walk after crash, now back serving as Manteca firefighter
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Manteca Fire Captain Marvin Mears is back to work on A-1 shift after a “miraculous” recovery from a boating accident 13 months ago, not expected to walk again. - photo by GLENN KAHL

“It’s such a relief – it feels good!”

Those were the words of Manteca Firefighter Marvin Mears as he was welcomed back to work on the A-1 shift as a line fire captain.  

Interim Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters said he was glad Mears is back.

“He just made a miraculous recovery – so dedicated to physical fitness,” Waters said.  

Mears was seriously injured in a July 3, 2008 boating crash in the Delta when he was riding with a friend who was driving a boat that collided with another water craft in the dark of night.  Mears was critically injured and his pelvis was reportedly broken in numerous places.  He was airlifted by helicopter from the crash scene to Dameron Hospital in Stockton.

He was later transferred to U.C. Davis in Sacramento still in very serious condition where he underwent numerous surgeries.

Doctors at the time told the Mantecan he would probably never walk again.  He had his own prognosis for his future, however.  After lengthy hospital stays followed by a stint in a rehab facility in Stockton that he called home for some four months, Mears returned to his Manteca residence.

He worked to regain his strength with daily visits to a local gym beginning in May where he worked out with a passion.  When he was given the fire department’s physical agility test to prove he was strong enough to return to fire service, three 20-year-old recruits taking the same test ahead of him failed – he passed.  To pass the physical agility test he had to complete the scenario in 10 minutes and 20 seconds.  He completed it in nine minutes.

The agility testing included putting on a 75-pound vest, stair stepping for three and a half minutes – pretty much draining a candidate – followed by a hose pull drag, dragging a 165 dummy for 85 feet and carrying a hose pack used for entering a high rise building.

Mears was also required to undergo two medical evaluations, passing both of them.

The Manteca fire fighter said he kept himself busy working on his house and focusing on trying to stay well and continuously exercising.

While Mears had worked chiefly as a deputy fire marshal with a captain’s rank within the Manteca Fire Department, he worked previously for 10 years as a line captain with the El Cerrito Fire Department.

A-Shift Captain Steve Santos said his firemen have adopted Mears into their ranks for his reorientation within the department for as long as it takes.

In fact, Santos, along with firefighters Mike Hohn, Dennis Hatfield and Travis Gooch went to Mears Manteca home – after they learned he was returning – to tell him he was going to be working with them on their shift and personally welcoming him back into their ranks.

“These guys have been amazing in getting me back up to speed,” Mears said Tuesday.

Mears also had continuous support from members of the noon Manteca Kiwanis Club.  When the boating accident happened he had just completed preparations for the July 4 Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast as chairman for the event.

Union Bank manager Juli Rhodes took over the breakfast operation for Mears in his absence.

“We Kiwanis are so proud of this huge achievement.  In a world of negativity, Marvin’s story demonstrates how perseverance can overcome almost any obstacle.  It’s amazing that 13 months ago doctors did not know if he would walk again  due to the major injuries he sustained,” she said.