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BURN VICTIM LEAVES HOSPITAL WITH SMILE AND THANK-YOU

Twelve-year-old David Opont rose from his wheelchair, smiled shyly and said he felt fine as he left a hospital Friday, three months after a bully allegedly set him on fire.

With the spirit that marked his remarkable recovery, he faced dozens of television cameras and reporters on the lawn of The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and said, "I have to thank God, my doctors and nurses."The first thing I want to do is go to school," he said.

Asked how he felt, the boy said in a soft voice: "Fine."

David then was wheeled to an ambulance that took him to a helicopter for transit to the Margaret T. Palomino Rehabilitation Center at Jamaica Hospital. There he will undergo physical therapy and reconstructive surgery, mostly cosmetic, and receive counseling for the next three to four weeks, doctors said.

David was on his way to school March 7 when a bully forced him into a building, tied him to a railing and set him afire, police said. David allegedly had been robbed by the same 13-year-old boy a day earlier.

The other boy was arrested hours after the attack and has been jailed at a juvenile center.

The attack left David with burns over 55 percent of his body. At first, doctors gave him only a 50-50 chance of survival.

His hospital visitors included actor Bill Cosby, former President Ronald Reagan, Vice President Dan Quayle and Mayor David Dinkins.