Superhero origin stories usually spark from something drastic. Getting a bite from a radioactive spider, overcoming the fear of bats by literally becoming one and growing up on an entirely different planet from the one you were birthed on because it was destroyed are a few of the most common superhero origin stories today.
Friday, April 24, 2020, marks the origin story for a Duncan boy who is an avid fan of all superheroes, especially Spider-Man and Batman. Bentley Mehringer, a seven-year-old who attends school in Empire, is now known as a superhero in Stephens County and in Texas after he helped save family members when a boat they were on at Lake LBJ in Kingsland, Texas exploded.
According to Bentley’s mother, Breanna Sullivan, the explosion happened just a few minutes after the family boarded two different boats.
“We were only on the water for maybe 10 minutes when the bigger boat started experiencing some problems,” she said. “We followed close behind them when we saw them veering over towards the docks below some of the lake houses.”
That’s when it happened: An explosion from the back end of the boat “sent two people and one of the dogs flying into the air,” before they hit the water, according to Sullivan.
Immediately, chaos ensued.
“No one knew what happened so it was immediate panic and screaming in all directions around us,” Sullivan said. “Bentley and … two other younger girls were down in the bottom of the boat where the bunks are.”
When Bentley recounts his story, he said he “smelled something funny” before hearing the “boom” sound.
“He thought he was on fire and could hear his uncle yelling from the top of the boat for them to get out,” Sullivan said. “He said he sent the other two girls up before him because he didn’t want anyone else hurt. His uncle threw the girls out of the boat into the water before getting himself out.”
Sullivan said she was counting people in the water from her boat and screaming for her son until she saw him thrown into the lake.
Stepdad Blake Thompson, who had already jumped from his boat, grabbed Bentley from the water and took him toward the docks, but the damage was already done, according to Sullivan.
“Bentley was terrified and you could already see skin hanging from limbs where he was burned because the blisters busted when he hit the lake water,” Sullivan said. “I tried helping one of the older girls and one of the younger girls to our boat but was trying to keep it from floating off … Someone helped dock our boat and got the girls to shore and I ran to where Bentley was.”
The two girls sent into the air when the explosion went off received injuries to their legs and feet, according to Sullivan, but the two younger children with Bentley at the time of the tragic event were “untouched for the most part.”
“We believe Bentley received flash burns to the front side of his body from the heat that came into the cabin of the boat when the explosion happened,” she said. “The back side of his body and everywhere he had clothes is untouched.”
When tragedy strikes, sometimes it can be hard to make heads or tails of the situation, but it can also leave vivid memories. Sullivan said “there were so many people around us rushing to help.”
“They were quick about getting Bentley out of there and to the helicopter headed to Austin,” she said.
It was a once in a lifetime event, and one that Sullivan said she’s grateful turned out the way it did, though it shouldn’t have happened at all.
“I have been through a lot in my lifetime but there is nothing that compares to the thought of losing your child,” she said. “I’m thanking God for all of our lives and though I wish this wouldn’t have happened, I’m thankful that it happened exactly as it did because we are all still here.”
According to Sullivan, Bentley sustained “second degree and deep second degree, possible third degree burns to his face, arms and legs.”
While the burns and the trauma will be a long road traveled for Bentley, a superhero in his own right who said he wishes his power was invisibility, the family will finally get to head home Saturday from the hospital, five hours away from Stephens County.
“Bentley is a true hero in my eyes for being so brave and selfless at such a young age,” Sullivan said. “He was so tough, I don’t think he even shed a tear until we were being separated for his helicopter ride.”
While Bentley wishes for invisibility, if you see him around in Stephens County anytime soon, you should call him BennyMac or BentleyTheBrave — they’re two of the superhero names he’s picked out for himself.
To help lighten spirits, a #BaldforBentley challenge is started on Facebook. Blake Thompson shaved his head first and others are slowly joining in to stand in solidarity.
The #BaldforBentley challenge comes after fundraisers for the hero were set up to help with the stay in Austin as well as hospital bills, bills while Bentley’s step dad Blake is away from work and any follow up or therapy costs as a result of the explosion.
To donate to Bentley’s fundraisers and provide support for the family, visit Coaches Corner’s Bentley Relief Fund at https://bentley2020.itemorder.com/sale or find a fundraiser for the family on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/donate/2606276642964429/?fundraiser_source=external_url.