As Benjamin Pileski remains in critical condition after being struck by a taxi on Sunday while crossing the street in Montauk, there are many people volunteering to help make things easier for his family.
His glasses will be replaced, his goldfish will be fed and he’ll be welcomed back into the U.S. Navy.
Thomas Pileski, whose 20-year-old son is in a coma at Stony Brook University Hospital, said in an interview Thursday he’s grateful for all the support he and his family as received and hopes they all will “hug their loved ones and tell them they love them.”
“Everyone feels something like this won’t happen to them,” he said. “But, before you know it, it could be you.”
Benjamin, a 2013 Mattituck High School graduate, was walking with a group of people on Montauk Highway when the accident occurred shortly before 3:10 a.m. just west of Carl Fisher Plaza, according to an East Hampton Town police report.
His friend, Justin Tyler, 20, of Cutchogue was also injured and returned home from the hospital Tuesday.
Thomas said Benjamin isn’t currently having visitors under doctor’s orders.
“I would like everyone to wait because the doctors do not want a lot of stimulation,” he said. “Stimulation brings excitement and excitement brings swelling of the brain.”
On Tuesday, Benjamin underwent surgery and had a piece of his skull removed in order to make room for his brain to swell, his father said, adding the procedure went well and pressure to his brain decreased drastically, but he had to undergo another CAT scan because an area of his brain wasn’t draining properly.
“He’s still not out of the woods at this point,” Thomas said. “This still could go either way.”
Sunday’s incident comes nearly a year after another Mattituck High School graduate, Kaitlyn Doorhy, was killed Aug. 22 at age 20 after a car struck her while she was crossing the street near her sorority house in Bridgeport, Conn.
Kait’s Angels, a non-profit charity group dedicated in Ms. Doorhy’s memory, has donated a gift certificate for gasoline to the Pileski family to help them with the cost of traveling between their home in Mattituck and the hospital, Thomas said.
He described the community’s support as tremendous and has enjoyed reading stories and seeing pictures of his son posted on a Facebook group Benjamin’s friends created this week called “Ben’s Corner.”
“I’m even getting to see pictures that I’ve never seen, especially with his friends like the one where they’re on the roof of my house throwing Gummy Bears into my swimming pool,” Thomas said.
While his son has only been in the Navy for about eight months, Thomas described the outpouring of support as “unbelievable” and said the chaplain from Benjamin’s ship called, gave a prayer and is planning to visit him in the hospital.
Representatives from the Navy have also visited the family at the hospital everyday this week and even offered to replace Benjamin’s glasses, which his father said he couldn’t find.
“When he comes out of this, I want him to make sure he’s got glasses so he can see,” Thomas said.
Then there’s the goldfish his son had in the barracks.
“I said, ‘I’d hate to tell you this but he also has a couple of goldfish,’” Thomas recalled. “They said ‘We’ll feed the goldfish. Don’t worry about it.’”
After successfully completing U.S. Navy basic training, Benjamin was stationed aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in Newport News, Va. on Nov. 11, which is his father’s birthday.
Thomas said the only person in the family that served in the military is his father, Frank, who was in U.S. Army.
“Ben was always fond of him and always proud of him,” Thomas recalled.
Another organization that has reached out to the Pileski family is the Wounded Warrior Project, which offered support with Benjamin’s recovery.
Thomas said he also felt comfort after he was told there will always be a place in the Navy for his son.
“They told me they will never discharge him — he can stay there until he’s ready to go,” Thomas said. “I’m not going to be around forever and he’s a young man. He’s going to have a long life ahead of him and this sets my mind at ease.”