AUGUSTA – An Iraq War veteran who came home intact, only to lose his legs last year while trying to help an accident victim in Augusta, is determined to get on with his life despite recent setbacks.

Toward that goal, a pair of local organizations have added their names to a long list of those helping Jeremy Gilley navigate the financial and legal quagmire the accident has created, including a lawsuit filed by Gilley against the man he was trying to help the night of the crash.

The Palermo man’s most immediate issues, however, are medical.

“Right now I need to have a surgery,” Gilley said Friday. “The prosthetics are basically on hold until I have the surgery done.”

The surgery will remove bone growth and scar tissue that have developed on Gilley’s right leg, which was amputated above the knee after his legs were crushed between two vehicles as Gilley helped the victim of a previous accident. Gilley hopes to have the procedure in the next few weeks.

Adding to his problems, the bone spur has renewed the pain Gilley hoped he had left behind.

“I have quite a bit of pain right now at the top of my leg,” Gilley said. “That’s been getting progressively worse the last two weeks. I’m a little nervous to see what it’s going to be like in another two weeks.”

Gilley’s left leg, which was amputated below the knee, continues to heal well.

“As long as everything goes as well as it’s been going with the left leg, I’ll be all set,” Gilley said.

ENCOUNTERS ACCIDENT SCENE

Gilley was a few days shy of his 27th birthday early on Dec. 18 when he came upon a crash on Route 3 west of the Cushnoc Crossing bridge.

He was returning to his Palermo home with his cousin, Julia Morrison, who had flown into the Portland International Jetport from basic training for the Maine Army National Guard.

Gilley was an Army specialist when he was honorably discharged in 2010 after four years of service that included eight months fighting in Baghdad.

Describing the crash in a Kennebec Journal interview in February, Gilley said he stopped to help the driver, who was still dazed inside the smashed-up truck. Gilley realized when he got to the vehicle that the driver was Christopher Bizier, who was a couple of years ahead of Gilley at Erskine Academy in South China.

Bizier’s truck was stopped across Route 3. Gilley believed Bizier was unhurt, but decided he should help Bizier exit the truck rather than leave him in place and risk being hit by another vehicle.

Gilley said he grabbed Bizier under the arms and then heard squealing tires. Gilley turned in time to see a van, which was driven by a 16-year-old Augusta boy, plow into Bizier’s truck. Gilley’s legs, which were pinned between the van and Bizier’s truck, were severed. He told Morrison and the teenager how to fashion tourniquets to stop the bleeding until rescue arrived.

Gilley spent a month recovering at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston before moving to VA Boston Healthcare System’s West Roxbury hospital, which offers amputee rehabilitation. He was in Massachusetts for about two weeks and receives ongoing care from VA Maine Healthcare Systems-Togus. Much of his ongoing physical therapy has been done independently.

“I’m doing pretty good,” Gilley said. “I’m in pretty good shape still. I’m doing things they told me to do and things I made up on my own.”

LAWSUIT ALLEGES NEGLIGENCE

Gilley had no health insurance. He said last week that he expects the VA to cover most of his medical expenses, though much of the financial aftermath will be resolved only after Gilley’s lawsuit against Bizier has run its course.

That suit, filed in Kennebec County Superior Court by Gilley’s attorney, Elizabeth Mitchell, alleges Bizier was driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, which made him unable to get out of his damaged truck.

Bizier’s driver’s license was suspended at the time of the crash, but police have not charged him with operating after suspension or operating under the influence.

“Bizier’s negligence in driving while impaired was a substantial factor in and the proximate cause of the accident, which set off the chain of events leading to the loss of Gilley’s legs,” Mitchell wrote.

Bizier’s attorney, Christopher Dinan, acknowledged in court filings that his client had consumed alcohol, but denied Bizier was impaired. Dinan argues that the teen driver was at least in part responsible for Gilley’s injuries.

Mitchell, Dinan and Gilley would not comment on the lawsuit or whether any action is planned against the teen driver or his family.

GROUPS OFFER SUPPORT

A number of organizations have stepped forward to host fundraisers for Gilley since the accident. The most recent was held last Wednesday at Le Club Calumet in Augusta, where club members and the Maine Marine Corps turned over more than $4,000.

“He was a warrior and he went through a lot,” said Ralph Sargent, commandant of the Maine Marine Corps, which raised more than $1,100. “To get back here and have this happen, it just got to me.”

Gilley said the money raised by the benefit suppers, auctions and programs have helped him pay his bills as he recovers. His monthly expenses are far more than his income, he said.

“I’m very grateful for everything everybody is doing,” he said. “I wouldn’t be as happy and safe and secure as I am right now if it wasn’t for everybody. I probably would have lost my truck and everything else months ago.”

Gilley, who worked for his uncle’s insulation business up until the crash, plans to go to college under the GI Bill. He’s still not sure where, or even what, he will study.

He’ll make those decisions in time.

“Once I get some legs and get a little more mobile, I’m going to get into that,” he said.

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Craig Crosby can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

[email protected]