A 17-year-old British race car driver underwent amputations to both his legs after a serious crash over the weekend left him fighting for his life.
Billy Monger was airlifted to a hospital after the high-speed crash occurred on Sunday during a Formula 4 race at Donington Park in Leicester, England. Footage obtained from the onboard camera (discretion advised) mounted to Monger’s open-wheel race car showed his vehicle slamming the back of Finnish driver Patrik Pasma’s car, which appeared to have come to a standstill on the track. (Pasma did not suffer any serious injuries in the incident.)
According to the BBC, it took rescuers 90 minutes to extract Monger from the wreckage, leaving the head of Monger’s team JHR Developments fearing the worst.
“We saw the crash and our fears were as low as they could be,” Steve Hunter told the BBC on Wednesday, a day after Monger was stable enough to undergo the amputations.
“All credit to the medical staff at the track and at the hospital, they have worked miracles,” Hunter continued. “It has been heart-wrenching but from where we were after the crash to where we are now, everything has been in the right direction since.”
Monger, who was put into a medically induced coma ahead of the surgery at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre, is now awake. And, according to Hunter, the young racer is in good spirits and even wants to continue his racing career.
“He’s a very, very positive young lad,” he told BBC Radio’s 5 Live on Thursday. “The first thing he started to do was work out how he would use a clutch with his hands.”
Since the crash, the worldwide racing community has offered its support to Monger, for whom a crowdsourcing fund was established to help the family cover his medical costs and rehabilitation expenses.
The fund, set up by Monger’s team, launched on Wednesday afternoon and within hours it had already surpassed its £260,000 (roughly $334,000) goal, the Telegraph reports. The fund saw major boosts from Formula 1 stars Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, both of whom urged their fans on social media to contribute to the fund. Button himself donated nearly $20,000n.
“Embrace the love from your family and friends during this tough time,” Button wrote on the crowdfunding site JustGiving.com, where he posted his donation. “Get well soon buddy. JB.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the fund had raised nearly $700,000 courtesy of roughly 13,100 supporters.
Monger began racing when he was just 7, according to his website, when he competed in the karting races. He first competed on the F4 circuit in 2016.
Formula 4 is a category of junior racing created by the FIA, the governing body that oversees Formula 1 racing. Described as “the first step from karting into the world of single-seater racing” by the FIA, F4 cars have scaled-back engines compared with those used in Formula 3, which is widely considered the minor leagues for Formula 1.
Crashes are not uncommon, but the sport has become much safer in recent years, and not just because of new safety mechanisms built into the vehicles and the driver’s uniforms. The races have also increased medical staff on hand.
While serious injuries and deaths these days are rare, they still occur. The most recent F1 driver to die as a result of a crash was Frenchman Jules Bianchi. He suffered severe head injuries at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix and died nine months later in July 2015.