Benjamin Pileski, the 20-year-old Mattituck High School graduate who was critically injured July 5 after being struck by a taxi while crossing the street in Montauk, has awoken from a coma.
His father, Thomas Pileski, confirmed in an interview Monday his son awoke from the medically-induced coma Sunday night. He is recovering at Stony Brook University Hospital.
“He recognized me and I tried to explain to him that he’s been in a bad accident,” Thomas said. “He’s groggy, gets confused and doesn’t know what’s going on, but he’s making progress and reacting to directions.”
There are over 100 staples in Benjamin’s head from surgery he had July 7 when doctors removed a piece of his skull in order to make room for his brain to swell, Thomas said, adding doctors are “very happy” with Benjamin’s progress, which includes leg and hand movement. His son is now breathing on his own, too.
“It’s a long-road recovery,” Thomas said, adding the next step is to get Benjamin off pain medication in order for the doctors to evaluate him.
An official update on Benjamin’s condition from the hospital wasn’t immediately available.
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.
Benjamin was on leave over the Fourth of July holiday weekend and was walking with a group of people July 5 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 two days later.
The 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, is planning a community yard sale Saturday, Aug. 15, at the Doorhy family’s home located at 1125 Ole Jule Lane in Mattituck. All proceeds will benefit Benjamin and his family.
The Doorhys are asking for donated items, except large pieces of furniture. The deadline to drop off items is Aug. 14.
• For more information about donating, volunteering or sharing ideas, visit the Kait’s Angels Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/kaitsangels?fref=ts
Benjamin’s friends also created a Facebook group following the accident called Ben’s Corner where friends and family can post pictures and share stories. His brother, Zach, has been also posting regular updates about Benjamin’s condition.
In addition, a GoFundMe page was recently launched to secure online donations.
“My family has never asked for handouts before, but we ask if you could please lend a helping hand during our time of need,” Zach wrote. “We don’t ask for a lot but any bit can help. Even if at the time you can’t afford to, we still ask that you help by sending your thoughts and prayers.”
As of 4 p.m. Monday, $5,770 had been raised.
• To donate, visit http://www.gofundme.com/benscorner
After receiving additional monetary donations since the accident, including from the Mattituck Lions Club and Boots on the Ground, Thomas said he recently created an account, Ben’s Benefit Fund, at Capital One Bank where people can also drop off donations.
Fighting back tears during Monday’s interview, Thomas reiterated his messages of thanks for the community’s support.
“I wish I could thank everybody personally for what they’ve done,” he said. “I hope they understand that I can’t.
“Hug your kids; hug your loved ones,” he continued, “and if you can’t, at least call them up and tell them how much you love them because you don’t think this is going to happen to you.”