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Community shows overwhelming support for local injured in ski accident

May 05, 2010
TWIN MOUNTAIN — Friends and family turned out in droves to the Carroll Town Hall in Twin Mountain on Saturday to support Whitefield native Brendan Quigley at a benefit in his honor to help raise money for the medical bills he accrued in a serious ski accident in March.

"[Brendan] is a person who has gone out of his way numerous times to help family, friends and even strangers. Now we are trying to help him," said the Facebook page advertising the event.

Hundreds agreed, with roughly 200 showing up to the afternoon "cornhole" tournament (bean-bag toss) and barbecue, and roughly 300 attending the evening's dance.

"It was something that Brendan's friends wanted to do for him," said Brendan's brother, Ned. "Yesterday was really a collaboration."

Dozens of area businesses donated prizes for the benefit's raffle, which included everything from four passes to Bretton Woods Zipline Canopy Tour to season passes to the Lancaster Fair to two spays or neuters at the Whitefield Animal Hospital. Local Twin Mountain motels, Carroll Motel and Cottages and Carlson's Motor Lodge, offered discounted rooms for those attending the event.

The benefit, or BrennoFest after Brendan's nickname, raised over $10,000 dollars to go towards the medical bills Brendan racked up in a near-fatal accident on March 13. Brendan had been skiing with a group of friends, including his brother, Ned, at Bretton Woods when things went wrong.

"I completely felt like I was over-reacting at the time," said Ned Quigley in a written account of the day of the accident. Ned went looking for his brother when he did not arrive at the bottom of the mountain with the rest of the group. "I sent our group to do another run, and stuck my head in the Bethlehem Express Quad bottom station and asked one of the lift/maintenance personnel (Nate Jordan, as it turned out) for a quick snowmobile ride back up the run we'd come down."

It turned out Ned's instincts were right, as Brendan had gone off the trail into a 15-foot ravine, hit the opposite wall of the ravine with his face, and fallen down into the stream at the bottom, according to eyewitness David Sweet.

Mr. Sweet, a veterinarian from Saunderstown, Rhode Island, was waiting for his wife on the side of the trail when he saw Brendan's crash out of the corner of his eye. Mr. Sweet immediately took off his gear and climbed down the ravine to help Brendan.

"I carefully rolled him over, cleaned his airway, and started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation," said Mr. Sweet who was the only one with Brendan when he stopped breathing. Ned arrived minutes later, immediately radioing the summit to have the DHART medivac chopper on standby when he saw the severity of the damage done to his brother's face.

"He seemed stronger when Ned came by," recalled Mr. Sweet, noting that Brendan opened his eyes at the sound of his brother's voice. Ned and the rest of Bretton Woods Ski Patrol eventually got Brendan on a backboard, attached a rope to it, and pulled Brendan out of the ravine.

After initial transport and further assistance from Twin Mountain Rescue, Brendan was flown by helicopter to Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital in Lebanon where he stayed for only two weeks, more than realizing the best estimates for his recovery time. He required major facial reconstructive surgery for the shattered bones in his face, and had to suffer through both a temporary tracheotomy and his jaw being wired shut. Permanent metal plates were positioned in Brendan's face to aid reconstruction.

Brendan remembers nothing from the accident, and has only the accounts given to him by others. Still, he expresses gratitude to the many people who helped him that day, and wonder at the many factors that worked in his favor, such as the perfect weather and the backpack that kept him from slipping farther into the knee-high brook. Aside from the serious facial injuries, Brendan came out of the accident largely unscathed. He bruised his arms and hands, as well as twisting his knee.

"Other than there not having been an accident, everything couldn't have gone better," said Brendan of the rescue. It took emergency crews less than 2 hours from the time Brendan crashed to get him to Dartmouth Hitchcock. Brendan plans to return to the scene of the crash to try to piece together what happened, he said.

Weeks later, Brendan, friends, and family find a way to joke about the horrific accident. There have been quite a few quips over the fact that the first person to give Brendan medical attention was a veterinarian, said Brendan. T-shirts sold at the benefit featured a BrennoFest logo on the front, and a "Where's Brenno?" on the back alongside a graphic of Brendan on his butt with his skis in the air.

"It's not that so many people know me," said Brendan of the outcry of support following his accident. "It's that they know me and still like me," he laughed.

Brendan had trouble getting from one side of the room to the other, noted Maryclare Quigley, Brendan's mother. He was stopped by so many people.

"I don't think I sat down the whole day," said Brendan who had trouble walking on his injured knee the day after the benefit. He didn't like being the center of attention, said Brendan, but tried to be gracious and talk to everyone who showed up.

Ned took some time away from the festivities of the benefit to praise the man who he believes saved his brother's life. "The fact that he didn't hesitate to do what he did, saved Brendan's life."

Mr. Sweet downplays his part in events. "I was just at the wrong place at the right time. I'm just happy that he's coming along so well," said Mr. Sweet modestly, happy to hear about the money raised at the benefit that he wished he could have attended. "It's obvious that [the Quigleys] are great people and an integral part of the community."

"It was overwhelming," said Mrs. Quigley. "It was a benefit, but it was really a celebration of Brendan."

Anyone who would like to make a donation to help Brendan Quigley with his medical expenses can do so through Lancaster's Passumpsic Savings Bank as part of the Brendan Quigley Friendship Fund at 788-4716.

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