Montreat coach injured in crash may never walk again
BLACK MOUNTAIN - A man struck by the driver of a Nissan Altima Monday night in downtown Black Mountain remained in the ICU at Mission Hospital's Trauma Center on Wednesday, and family members say Britten Olinger, who has spent the last decade as a running coach, will never walk again.
Olinger, the head coach of the Montreat College men’s and women’s track and field teams, was one of several victims in a five-vehicle collision that occurred around 7 p.m. Monday at the intersection of State Street and N.C. 9.
He suffered a severed spinal cord, fractures to his pelvis and lower back, a broken arm, and a small brain bleed, and has traumatic injury to his lungs, according to Olinger's sister, Nancy Quesenberry, who launched a GoFundMe page to support her brother's medical costs as well as his family, which includes his wife and 10-month-old daughter.
The GoFundMe page, launched Tuesday, raised about $47,500 by 3 p.m. Wednesday. It has a goal of raising $50,000.
"Britten's recovery will take over a year, and he will spend a considerable amount of time in ICU," Quesenberry said on the GoFundMe page. "To say he has a long road to recovery is an understatement; however, he has all the training to win the race."
She said her brother loves to run, and he has mastered the art of running and its technique and has supported several athletes throughout his coaching career.
"We have faith that God has a plan; there is a reason and Britten has the will," she said. "He is an inspiration to so many people. He is a true servant to God. His smile, oh man, his smile! His smile can light up the room and his laugh is contagious. He has the ability to make you feel important and he has the ability to make you feel needed."
The Black Mountain Police Department says Kyle Carney was driving the Nissan Altima in Monday's night crash, and that speed was the main factor. How fast Carney was traveling at the time of the collision has not been released.
The collision remained under investigation Wednesday.
"(Authorities) cannot release any more information at this time," said Lt. Rob Austin with the Black Mountain Police Department. "A lot of work needs to be done."
Carney was charged with careless and reckless driving along with other traffic violations, according to the department.
Carney was driving a 2015 Nissan Altima west on Interstate 40 at a high rate of speed and left the interstate at Exit 65 onto U.S. 70 West, police say. When he entered the intersection of Montreat Road and State Street, he struck a 2004 Mazda sedan, according to poilce. Three other vehicles were hit as well.
Five people were injured in addition to Carney and Olinger, police said. Carney and Olinger were the only people who suffered severe injures and were transported to the hospital.
Debris from the collision also caused extensive window damage to Town Hardware, a local hardware and general store that opened in 1928. The hardware store was able to reopen Tuesday.
Olinger is in his first season with Montreat, where he was offered the position after spending five years coaching at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Olinger is a graduate of the University of Virginia at Wise, where he began his coaching career.
He moved with his family to the area in July to begin working at Montreat College.
Since June, Olinger has recruited 16 athletes, with 10 more committed to running at the college, according to Adam Caress, director of communications at Montreat College.
At the last meet in Winston-Salem, the team set eight new school records. The men's team has also moved up two spots and is now rank third in the South, and the women's team moved up six spots and is now ranked fourth in the South, according to the U.S. Track and Field/Cross Country Coaches Association.
"Their season is off to a great start under Coach Olinger’s leadership," Caress said.
Members in the college community have come together to rally behind Olinger and his family, Caress said.
There have been two prayer services, and a prayer vigil has been set up at the campus library as a place where students and employees can go to pray for Olinger and his family, he said. There is also a prayer wall set up in the dining hall, and students have held spontaneous gatherings for prayer while they process the situation.
"News of Coach Ollinger's accident has been heart-wrenching for our community," Caress said. "Britten passionately pours himself into our students. He has a deep commitment to not only build a championship track and field program, but to use the collegiate athletics experience to develop character in his student-athletes and to teach them to strive for excellence in all things, honoring God with their lives."
Caress said the community continues to look for ways they can support Olinger and his family.
Jason Lewkowicz, director of Montreat College's track and field/cross country program, has known Olinger since his sophomore year in college when Lewkowicz was his coach.
He said he has been in a state of shock since Monday's crash. Lewkowicz spent three years coaching Olinger, and has spent five out of the last six years coaching with him.
"You don't expect that kind of thing to happen in downtown Black Mountain," he said. "Everybody is sad and has been riding a wave of emotions since then."
Lewkowicz described Olinger as a "tremendous person."
"I don't know anyone who would call him an enemy," he said. "He is super likable and down to earth. He is a great track coach and an even better person. He would take the shirt off his back to help anyone - I know that sounds cliche - but that's the guy he is."
Black Mountain News reporter Fred McCormick contributed to this report.