Charlie Billington ’04, a member of heavyweight crew team, sustained serious injuries Friday afternoon when the boat he was in collided with another boat on the Housatonic River during crew practice.
As of Sunday night, Billington was resting in the post-operation ward of Yale-New Haven Hospital and was expected to make a full recovery, heavyweight crew head coach John Pescatore said. Billington underwent five hours of surgery Friday to remove a small portion of boat that lodged in his back during the collision, sources said.
“Very, very fortunately, there was no nerve damage, and he is expected to make a full recovery, though it’s going to take a while, because the puncture wound was pretty deep,” said heavyweight captain Andrew Brennan ’04 after visiting with Billington Sunday night.
Billington was in a single-person boat when the lightweight eight’s boat’s bowball, a small rubber ball at the front of every boat, broke off as it crashed into Billington’s single. The exposed bow of the lightweight boat slid up the shell of Billington’s boat and then pierced Billington’s lower backside, missing his spinal cord and major organs.
Billington was knocked into the water, but assistant heavyweight coach Jamie Snider immediately took a motorboat to the scene of the accident and brought Billington ashore, where an ambulance was already waiting to take Billington to Yale-New Haven.
While Billington lost a significant amount of blood, he never lost consciousness.
“[Billington] was alert the entire time,” Pescatore said. “He swam to the shell. If he wasn’t bleeding, you wouldn’t have been able to tell he’d been in an accident.”
Pescatore was quick to praise Snider’s efforts.
“Jamie reacted instantaneously,” Pescatore said. “He raced over to Charlie in less than 45 seconds and had him back at the boathouse in about a minute. [Snider] was heroic and efficient.”
Billington’s mother arrived in New Haven shortly after she received news of the accident.
“This was never a life-threatening injury,” Pescatore said. “The doctors guarantee that he’ll be fine.”
Members of the crew team said Billington was in good spirits after the surgery.
“He’s doing about as well as he can under the circumstances,” Brennan said. “The response of the team and Charlie’s friends from Davenport has been tremendous. Both times when I went to see him, two different women behind the front desk at Yale-New Haven remarked that they had never seen anyone get so many visitors before.”
The accident prevented Billington from attending a cleanup of Dixwell Plaza Saturday, an event he organized.
“His not being able to go made the event mean a lot more to each of us, and as a result the team showed up in full force and accomplished more than we were expected to accomplish,” Brennan said. “We went to visit him right after we were finished, and hearing how well the event went helped to make him feel better.”