"It's a traumatic, tragic situation,"Maddy Montanye's uncle said Saturday.
An 11 year-old Pine County girl remained in a medically induced coma Saturday after being accidentally shot by her father two days before.
Maddy Montanye was in critical condition at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis after doctors removed the bullet lodged in her brain and extracted parts of her skull Friday to relieve pressure.
"It's a traumatic, tragic situation," said her uncle, Jason Montanye. "She's a strong-willed girl. We're very optimistic things will work out."
She was shot Thursday night when her father's gun went off at their rural Braham, Minn., home.
The fifth-grader in the east-central Minnesota town of 1,700 was described by family and friends as a outdoors enthusiast who loved playing outside on her trampoline. "She's a really sweet girl," said friend Nikki Dodd, 13, of Buffalo. "She's so nice to everybody."
Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole said Montanye's father, Jesse, had brought the .22-caliber pistol inside the home when it discharged, striking Maddy, who was across the room. Several family members were in the home when the gun went off. It took 45 minutes to an hour before she was airlifted from her rural home to HCMC.
The bullet "could have gone anywhere," Cole said. "But it hit her."
Jason Montanye said a report that his brother was target shooting outside the home was a separate event that day from when he brought the gun inside. The gun had been malfunctioning, Jason Montanye said.
"We've grown up around firearms," he said. "We know the safety and we practice it."
Cole said the Sheriff's Department is still investigating the accident and will refer its findings to the Pine County attorney's office. It's unclear until the investigation concludes whether charges will be filed, he added. "Obviously a young girl was severely injured. If there was negligence or something ... we'll go from there," he said.
Cole said it's been "some time" since an accidental shooting has occurred in Pine County.
Statewide, about 300 to 400 unintentional firearm injuries have been reported by Minnesota hospitals each year, according to state Health Department data. The age group that most often falls victim: 10- to 19-year-olds.
In 2009, 710 firearm injuries were reported by Minnesota hospitals and of those, nearly half -- 332 incidents -- were unintentional. Of unintentional firearm injuries, most were teens or pre-teens; 86 15- to 19-year-olds were injured, followed by 56 10- to 14-year-olds.
Richard Stock teaches firearm safety classes in the metro through the state Department of Natural Resources. When he hears of accidental shootings, "it almost always boils down to you're not following the fundamentals of firearm safety," he said. "Always know where your gun is pointing and always treat is like it's loaded."
Jason Montanye said the family is focused on Maddy, and appreciates the support from the community and others on their CaringBridge site. "You always hear about it [incidents like this]; it's never supposed to happen to you," he said. "We're still optimistic about everything."
Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141