A former Ottawa Valley teacher is fighting for his life in a Honduras hospital after he was shot several times in a brazen drug-related carjacking on his way to a goodbye party for a former colleague.
Dennis Spencer, 58, the principal of a respected international school in northern Honduras for the past four years, was stopped at a traffic light in San Pedro Sula sometime between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday when two armed men forced their way into his car.
They pushed a female colleague, also a principal, into the backseat and then at gunpoint ordered Spencer to drive. Within a few minutes, they were overtaken by two men in a second car who opened fire, striking Spencer in the arm, shoulder and skull, before speeding away. No one else was hit, and the two carjackers fled.
Spencer’s colleague, dazed and frightened, wandered through the neighbourhood knocking on doors to get help, eventually finding someone who called for an ambulance.
Spencer, a teacher for 25 years in Renfrew County, was rushed to Cemesa Hospital where he was placed in medically induced coma early Saturday after surgeons operated on his brain. It is believed he was hit in the head by shrapnel, possibly shards of glass sent flying by bullets.
Doctors often place head injury victims in comas to keep brain activity to a minimum while they assess the extent of the trauma.
Ron Vair, the Canadian who runs the Escuela Internacional Sampedrana where Spencer has worked since 2005, said Sunday that doctors hope to gradually ease him from the coma today. The brain has shown no abnormal swelling, and doctors remain “guardedly optimistic” he will recover.
Spencer’s wife Barb, who was in Pembroke visiting one of the couple’s two adult children when her husband was attacked, flew back to Honduras Sunday.
In the meantime, Spencer’s colleagues from school have been lining up to visit the popular principal in hospital.
“There has been anywhere from 10 to 50 people there at a time to see him,” Vair said. “He is a real good fellow. The staff really love him. I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about him.”
Spencer was principal of Esceula Sampedrana’s smaller elementary school campus in La Lima, a mountain community about 30 kilometeres from San Pedro Sula, a city of half a million and the site of the school’s main campus.
In all, the school has about 2,000 students and 200 staff, more than 30 of them from Canada, according to David Schult, a Kitchener, Ont. native who is a vice-principal at the main campus.
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