UM student returning in fall after stepping on explosive

During Fourth of July weekend, Connor Golden, studying music engineer in UM’s Frost School of Music, was forced to have his lower left leg amputated after stepping on a rock that concealed a discarded explosive. Golden was on vacation in New York City and walking through Central Park when the shocking accident took place.

According to NBC 4 New York, New York Police Department investigators believe the explosive was inside a plastic bag and when it failed to detonate, the person responsible for its creation left it behind. Investigators stressed the fact that the explosive was not a terrorist attack, but the result of a person experimenting with chemical mixtures to make a small explosion.

Golden was treated by doctors at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where he underwent three surgeries to amputate his left leg up to his knee, WNBC reported. According to doctors familiar with the case, the advancements in prosthetics and physical therapy will allow Connor to have a normal, active lifestyle.

In a statement for The Miami Hurricane, Golden said he received an outpour of support from the campus community during the weeks following the incident.

“I feel so fortunate to be part of the Hurricane family,” Golden said. “I would have expected most people to be enjoying the 4th of July weekend with family and friends, yet on that day, numerous UM administrators reached out to my family to offer their help. My professors and classmates also quickly reached out to me and have been so supportive.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely kept in contact with Golden and his family throughout the last seven weeks, offering to support him in any way necessary, alongside Frost School of Music Dean Shelly Berg.

“After surviving a horrific incident in Central Park, New York City, over the Fourth of July weekend, we look forward to welcoming Connor back to UM and providing him the support necessary to continue his recovery in Miami,” Whitely told The Miami Hurricane. “We are thrilled Connor will be returning to campus.”

Golden will have the opportunity upon his return to campus to participate in ReLOAD, a specialized physical-therapy program developed over three years by the Frost School of Music in collaboration with the Miller School of Medicine and the College of Engineering.

ReLOAD was designed to help physical-therapy patients, including amputees and veterans, learn how to walk again. By using an app designed by the UM team, patients receive real-time feedback from an audio coach while walking thanks to a sensor and audio feedback system. This system allows patients to have independent physical therapy sessions anywhere, essentially expediting the recovery process.

The team of physical therapists, music engineers and computer engineers from the university includes Dr. Christopher Bennett, Dr. Ignacio Gaunaurd and Dr. Vibhor Agrawal, who recently finished the first clinical trial for ReLOAD and are now in the process of reviewing the data. According to Gaunaurd, the results look extremely promising.

“It is a very neat program,” Gaunaurd said. “It is like having a physical therapist at home with them. The system will help reinforce the good walking with specific exercises to improve their overall mobility.”

On July 3, Golden’s father told reporters at Bellevue Hospital of his family’s plans to take Connor back to his hometown in Virginia for rehabilitation. While Golden recuperates, the Oakton Chorus family set up a Go Fund Me page called “The Connor Golden Fund,” to help the Goldens with the cost of medical bills.

The investigation into whoever is responsible for the discarded explosion in New York City’s Central Park is ongoing. NYPD is offering a reward of up to $12,500 for information leading to an arrest of the perpetrator.

For Golden, he is just looking forward to the day he can come back to the university and continue making music.

“I’m so thankful for everyone’s care and concern,” Golden said. “I can’t wait to resume my life in Miami.”