SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- It was a special occasion in Lycoming County as a bald eagle was released back into the wild.
He didn't know he'd be the one opening the cage, but 14-year-old Ethan Kuriga from South Williamsport has been waiting for this moment for months.
"To see that it couldn't stand and now it just flew away like nothing happened. That's awesome," Ethan said.
Ethan's grandfather Michael Kuriga is a master falconer. Back in November, he got a call that a large bird had been hit by a vehicle near South Williamsport. He grabbed Ethan and they went to take a look.
"When we first saw the bird, he looked like a red-tailed hawk. As soon as I approached it and it flapped its wings, I could see it was an immature bald eagle," Michael Kuriga said.
"At first, I was like, 'OK, how did a bird that big get hit by a car?' Like it was flying that low, but once that sunk in I was like, 'it's injured, we got to go get it.' I really didn't think about anything else," he added. "The legs were kind of wobbly on this bird so we didn't know if they were broken or whatever so immediately I phoned Robyn Graboski over there in Port Matilda."
"We immediately started her on pain medicines and fluids and then we did some blood work and found out it also had lead poisoning," Graboski said.
Robyn Graboski owns Centre Wildlife Care, a wildlife rehab near State College. She's been taking care of the bird and believes it likely ingested lead by eating an animal that had been shot and killed.
Kuriga says the lead poisoning was more serious than the bird's other injuries.
"By getting hit by a vehicle it saved its life," Kuriga said.
With enough care, the bird, now named Phoenix, was ready to be released back into the wild close to where she was found.