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Wrestlers nearly killed in accident reborn as sledge hockey stars

As Betty Carron looks back, she almost cannot believe the path that her grandson, Tyler Carron, and his best buddy, Nikko Landeros, followed to stardom on the United States sledge hockey team.

On the night of Jan. 15, 2007, Tyler Carron and Landeros were on their way home from a high school dance in Berthoud, Colo. The car they were riding in blew a tire. They got out of the vehicle to fix it, and had just opened the trunk, when another vehicle smashed into them from behind.

Each of the teens, who had been star wrestlers on their high school team, lost both of their lower legs. Airlifted to a Denver hospital, both were lucky to survive.

“I remember the date so well because it’s my birthday,” said Betty Carron, talking with a reporter Friday on the downtown Buffalo waterfront. “It was a nightmare … but things happen for a reason. That was such a horrible night, but so many good things came out of it later.”

In the months that followed, Carron and Landeros were outfitted with artificial legs, and they began the long, difficult process of re-learning how to walk. Known to their friends as ferocious competitors, the two developed a love for a new sport – sledge hockey – and in time, became two of the sport’s very best players.

Over the past several years, the two young men – now 26 – have traveled all over the world, representing the U.S. in sledge hockey. In March of last year, they beat the best teams in the world, winning the gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Now, they are in Buffalo, competing in the IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships.

Betty Carron is in town to watch them with Tyler’s parents, Bruce and Cherie Carron, who run a popular bar and restaurant in Severence, Colo. Bruce and Cherie Carron said they are extremely proud of their son, and of Landeros, for their accomplishments on the ice.

“When we went to the final game in Sochi, there were about 750 Russian fans and about 50 Americans, but we made our voices heard,” said Bruce Carron.

He said his son and Landeros are especially well-known on their team for their aggressive, hard-hitting style of play.

“They love to throw their weight around,” he said. “They call them ‘the Bash Brothers.’ ”