Jay Bieltz, a three-sport star at Thomson High School, was seriously injured in a boating accident on Little River in McDuffie County Sunday afternoon.
And a local surgeon, Dr. Joe Wills, is being hailed a hero by Dr. John Bieltz's family for saving their son's life.
The younger Bieltz, who celebrated his 18th birthday last month, was rushed to the emergency room of McDuffie Regional Medical Center in Thomson after striking the bow of a boat while in an inner-tube shortly before 4:30 p.m.
During the emergency surgery, Jay's spleen was removed, Dr. Bieltz said in an interview Tuesday with The McDuffie Mirror. Jay also received a deep laceration underneath his left armpit.
Jay was admitted to the local hospital where he was placed in the Intensive Care Unit until Tuesday afternoon. He reportedly was resting comfortably in a private room later that day, his father said.
"He's going to make a full recovery," Dr. Bieltz, a local orthopedic surgeon, said. "He'll be back. He's really got such a great attitude. We're just so thankful to God and to the entire medical team at our hospital for doing what they did for him. It was incredible how everybody worked so well together in such a short period of time."
The accident involving Jay remained under investigation on Tuesday, according to Ranger First Class Brian Adams of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division in Thomson.
The mishap occurred while Jay and two of his friends were being pulled around on a inner-tube by a boat driven by Taylor Carrington, of Thomson, Ranger Adams said. The ranger said Mr. Carrington, a college student, "misjudged" his distance on a turn in the water between Raysville Marina and Raysville Boat Club, which resulted in one of the boys being thrown off and into the water. A second boy reportedly saw that the inner-tube was going to hit a boat and jumped into the water, Ranger Adams said.
Jay wasn't as fortunate, Dr. Bieltz said.
"Jesse Ramos was thrown off," Dr. Bieltz said. "Korey Austin ended up jumping into the water, but before he did, he tried to get Jay's attention. Apparently Jay never heard him."
Jay ended up striking the bow of a boat.
Two other friends, identified by Dr. Bieltz as Walker Barmore and Dalton Herrington, jumped into the water to retrieve the badly injured Jay Bieltz.
Dr. Bieltz said he believes his son can make a complete recovery in about six weeks.
Dr. Wills, a longtime friend of the Bieltz family, was called to the hospital after Dr. Bieltz arrived with Jay in a pickup truck belonging to another friend of the family, Scott Williams. Mr. Williams, owner of Williams Sewer and Drain Service in Thomson, drove the pair to the hospital with an emergency escort from Thomson Police Department Investigator Lt. Scott Whittle.
"There wasn't time for an ambulance," Dr. Bieltz said. "Jay needed emergency care right away."
While tending to his son medically while en route to the hospital, Dr. Bieltz made arrangements with the hospital staff to contact the surgical team - one of those members being Dr. Wills. At least two other doctors - Dr. Daryl Wiley and Dr. John Gore - were notified by emergency room physician, Louise Yates.
"We didn't know anything was wrong with Jay's spleen until after Dr. Wills started the surgery," Dr. Bieltz said, noting that he and his wife placed their total faith and trust in Dr. Wills and the entire surgical team. "I think one of the reasons Jay is doing as well as he is doing is because he had surgery within what is known as the golden hour."
Dr. Bieltz actually assisted in the surgery.
"I didn't really do anything," he said. "I was just there more or less for moral support."
Jay's mishap was what Dr. Bieltz described as a "freak accident."
No charges were filed.
Ranger Adams said there were nine witnesses to the accident. He explained that there is a law in Georgia known as the "100-foot Law," which states that the driver of any vessel has to be operating in an idle position when they approach within 100 feet of a shoreline, swimmers, bridges or other obstructions.
"A large percentage of the boating accidents in our state are due to violations of this law," Ranger Adams said. The day before, a similar mishap in Lincoln County left a teenage girl with a fractured skull, he said.
Dr. Bieltz said he and his family spent Sunday on Little River celebrating his daughter's graduation the night before from Thomson High School. It was Kayla Bieltz who coordinated making the emergency phone calls to authorities after learning of her brother's accident.
A number of friends gathered at the hospital after the accident. Jay plays football, soccer and golf at Thomson High School.
Several members of the THS coaching staff have visited Jay at the hospital, including Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Luther Welsh.
"It has really been touching to our family to receive the support we have received from this community since Jay's accident," Dr. Bieltz said. "We'll never forget how much love this community and our hospital has shown us as a family."