Charlie Billington ’04 is on the mend after being severely injured in a rowing accident on Sept. 26.
“I’m making a recovery,” Billington said. “I have been going to classes. It gets better every day.”
The accident occurred during crew practice, when Billington’s single boat was hit by a lightweight Eight boat coxswained by Giovanni Adams ’05. The rubber bowball on Adams’ boat, designed to prevent such accidents, broke off, exposing the fiberglass bow. The lightweight boat then pierced through Billington’s boat and stabbed him in the lower back. An ambulance took Billington to Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he underwent five hours of surgery.
Adams and lightweight crew coach Andrew Card could not be reached for comment.
After one minor surgery and physical therapy Billington expects to row again.
“I’m hoping to get back to full fitness,” Billington said.
Heavyweight crew head coach John Pescatore praised Billington’s recovery and commented on his positive influence on the rest of the team.
“He’s proving to be a fast healer and he’s highly motivated to be back out there again,” Pescatore said. “If anything, the guys are excited to see that someone on their team getting fairly seriously injured is coming back like a champ. [Billington has] created motivation for people.”
Pescatore said that other team members are not scared to continue rowing despite the fact that one of their teammates was seriously injured.
“[Team members] know that it’s a freak accident,” Pescatore said. “It’s a one in a million. It so rarely happens that you couldn’t go out there and re-create it if you tried.”
Pescatore said that since he began rowing in 1980, he has only known of three serious accidents like Billington’s. One of the accidents involved a woman who was stabbed by a boat but was rowing in the Olympics six weeks later. Stressing the fact that Billington’s injury was caused purely by accident, Pescatore said that no one was at fault, and that the accident could have happened as easily as any car accident.
“I think no one’s at fault,” Pescatore said. “That’s what a freak accident is: nobody’s at fault. Imagine two cars driving down the road in opposite directions. The two drivers both lean over to look for a sandwich in another seat at the same time and they hit each other. It was an accident. No one is at fault. No one is knowingly putting themselves in danger.”
Billington notes that the team, his family and his friends have been supporting him, but his recovery has not been the team’s main focus.
“I think that people have been focusing on their rowing,” Billington said. “I’ve gotten a lot of support from the crew team and really am grateful at the amount of support that people on the team and friends and family have offered. But I think as for the team, they’ve been supporting me but they’ve been more focusing on their season.”
Heavyweight crew captain Andrew Brennan ’04 and lighweight crew captain Tamas Toro ’04 could not be reached for comment.