Duke wide receiver Blair Holliday is in critical but stable condition after suffering head injuries in a jet-ski accident at Lake Tillery in central North Carolina on Wednesday.
According to Art Chase, Duke’s media relations director for football, Holliday collided with teammate and fellow wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who was not treated for injuries. Holliday was airlifted to the University of North Carolina Trauma Center where he remained Thursday night. Both players were riding jet skis.
Holliday was listed in critical condition in Duke’s initial news release Thursday afternoon, but was upgraded to critical but stable.
“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with Blair, his parents, Leslie and Rick, and the entire Holliday family,” Duke football coach David Cutcliffe said in a statement released by the school. “The Holliday family is one of tremendous character and strength, and is truly an inspiration for all of us. Secondly, we could not be more appreciative of the care and support Blair has received here at UNC Hospitals. The doctors, nurses and support staff have been truly outstanding.
“We ask that you continue to keep Blair and his family in your thoughts, and also respect their privacy at this time of concern.”
The accident occurred around 5 p.m. on Lake Tillery, which is located in Montgomery and Stanley counties, around 125 miles south of Durham, where Duke is located. The lake is a popular fishing spot and is often crowded with fisherman in its many coves.
Brandon Garrison, a law enforcement officer with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, said conditions were more dangerous than usual on Wednesday.
“The water was very choppy due to the boats … A bunch of boats on the water due to is being the July 4 holiday made for difficult conditions,” said Garrison, who arrived on the scene at 5:10 p.m.
While the investigation is ongoing and will continue into early next week, at least, Garrison said he doesn’t believe alcohol was a factor. However, he believes the circumstance with the choppy water and inexperience operating water crafts by Holliday and Crowder were likely the main reasons for the accident.
Montgomery County EMS transported Holliday to Stanley County Regional Medical Center, Garrison said, and from there he was airlifted to UNC Hospitals.
In five years on the job, Garrison said he is called to “six or seven” similar accidents a year on Badin Lake and Lake Tillery, which are within his coverage area.
Holliday, listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, is from Sherman Oaks, Calif. He caught just three passes a year ago but was slated to start this season for a Blue Devils team with legitimate aspirations of reaching a bowl game.
Holliday was one of the top stories from Duke’s spring practices and was later named Duke’s Most Improved Offensive Player following spring drills.
“He’s a young man of high character and comes from a great family,” Chase said. “He’s gifted athletically; those are the things that immediately come to mind about Blair.”
Crowder, a 5-9, 175-pound sophomore from Monroe, N.C., which is about 40 miles from Lake Tillery, caught 14 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown last season and is expected to contribute a great deal this season.
Crowder was at Duke’s football facilities Thursday morning and showed no signs of injury.