JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A freshman student and sorority member at Arkansas State University was severely injured Tuesday night at a fraternity house, according to an incident report filed with the Arkansas State University Police Department.
According to ASU police, Natalie Jo Eaton, 18, of Harrisburg was taken to a Memphis hospital after she was impaled by the shaft of a broken golf club. The incident happened at the Kappa Alpha Fraternity House, 1006 University Loop East in Jonesboro, shortly before 6 p.m.
Eaton's best friend, Makaleigh Riddle, said she now has feeling on both sides of her body, which she calls a miracle.
"Where the club went in, it hit her spinal chord," Riddle said. "The way doctors talked about it, it was probably paralysis. That's the best that we were looking at. It was really hard to hear. But now she's moving her arms and legs a day later. I don't know. That's just crazy. I know people are praying everywhere but that's a miracle. She's the strongest person I've ever met so that doesn't surprise me at all."
According to police, "rush" activities were taking place at the Kappa Alpha House earlier in the afternoon. Officer Bill Brown stated that people were playing games outside before a cookout.
The incident report stated that as people were standing around, a 19-year-old male threw a football to a 20-year-old male, who "was to use a golf club as a bat and hit it."
When the club hit the ball, the shaft broke.
"The separated shaft and head traveled around 30 feet when the shaft impaled [Eaton]," the incident report stated.
A second person was hurt, but she told police she was okay.
According to the incident report, when police arrived, Eaton was lying on the sidewalk and two males were holding her head up and applying pressure to the wound.
"She just went to fall and he held her head there for a good 15 minutes to keep her in place," Riddle said. "If that [the club] had moved at all, there was not really anything anyone could have done. His quick reaction probably saved her life. He had to be really strong for that. I couldn't imagine."
Eaton was taken to St. Bernards in an ambulance then flown to the Med in Memphis for further treatment.
Riddle said Eaton's family is just asking for prayers.
"It's going to be a long road ahead of her," Riddle said. "She's a freshman in college. She's got her whole life ahead of her. Even if you don't know her that well, find a way to lift her and her family up. They could use every single bit of it. Everybody who meets Natalie loves her. If you knew her, you would love her."
Riddle also asks community members to keep the boy who is responsible for this in their prayers.
"It was a freak accident which is basically the only way to describe it," Riddle said. "There's no way you could have even imagined that that's what would have happened. I feel terrible for him and his family. That's going to be really hard to deal with."
A total of nine people witnessed the incident, the police report stated.
ASU Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Rick Stripling said he does not expect anyone to face any charges.
"At this point, we see it as an incident we respond to and a tragedy," Stripling said. "We don't see any harm or foul at this point of any sort."
Stripling said her Red Wolf family has a message for the family.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and all the friends associated with it," Stripling said. "We're here to provide that support system for them and we look forward to her being back on campus in classes with us."
"It's gonna be tough, but she's tougher," Riddle said.
The ASU community has already started to rally behind Eaton. Kappa Alpha reached out to her and her family on its Twitter page and the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority held a prayer vigil Tuesday night.
Riddle also held a prayer vigil Wednesday morning and wants to continue to do so every day. If you would like to attend the next prayer vigil for Eaton, email Riddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.