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A life and program revived at Duke

Blair Holliday looked dead. He was face down in Lake Tillery, only his life jacket preventing him from sinking. A jet ski accident had launched him into the water. Holliday was unconscious.

Blair Holliday (8) isn't sure he'll be able to play football again. If so, he won't be too bummed about that. (Jon Gardiner/Duke)

A dazed Jamison Crowder—a Duke teammate and fellow receiver who drove the jet ski that collided with Holliday—saw his friend’s limp body and swam to him. The 5-9 Crowder lifted the 6-4 Holliday onto the back of a jet ski. Someone else drove while Jamison, facing backward, held onto Holliday, his feet and legs trailing in the water.

A nursing student named Chelsea Gibbons heard the accident as she floated in a cove. As her mom called 911, Gibbons climbed onto a dock nearby. When she saw Holliday taken to another dock, she worried she might not be able to swim the 100 yards to get there. She grabbed a floatie, tucked it under her right arm, jumped in the water and started kicking.

She swims faster under water, so she ducked under, popped back up and shouted instructions. “Lay him flat!” she hollered. She swam farther. “Don’t move his head!” When she got to him, she assessed his injuries. The only visible ones were to his head, which bore the brunt of the crash. His mouth was bleeding. His jaw broken.

Gibbons found a weak pulse. It disappeared. She started CPR—she had been recertified just a few weeks earlier. She guesses she did CPR for 10 or 12 minutes. An emergency crew arrived, put an oxygen mask on Holliday and drove him to a nearby hospital. From there, he was flown to a University of North Carolina hospital.

Crowder was physically uninjured. But he was deeply wounded.

The crash was an accident, a horrendous accident. Holliday slowed to say hello to somebody, and when he did, spray from his wake hit Crowder, who was behind him, in the face. He never saw Holliday stop before they collided. Crowder knew it wasn’t his fault — it was no one’s fault. But his heart ached just the same.

Link: Blair Holliday overcomes near-death accident

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