Boy, 12, Dies in Ski Accident in Pa.
A 12-year-old boy from Kensington [MD] died Friday after he crashed into a tree while skiing at Whitetail Mountain Resort in Mercersburg, Pa., police and a resort spokesman said.
Samuel Johnson, a student at St. Jane Frances de Chantal School in Bethesda, was skiing close to the edge of the novice Snowpark Trail about 3:15 p.m., when one ski came off and he veered from the trail and hit a tree, the police report said. He was taken to Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown, Md., where he died about 4:30 p.m., said Don MacAskill, mountain manager for the resort.
MacAskill said it was the first death at the resort in at least five years.
Anybody have any other details?
ARTICLE FROM THE GAZZETTE NEWS
Maryland youth dies in Whitetail skiing accident
by VICKY TAYLOR
TheGazetteNews.com Staff Writer
Jan. 13 - A 12-year-old Kensington, Md., boy who died in a skiing accident at Whitetail Ski Resort in Mercersburg Friday lost a ski before he went off the trail and hit a tree, Pennsylvania State Police said today.
The accident that killed Samuel Johnson apparently occurred around 3:30 p.m. Friday, police and resort officials said. Skiers reported another skier down beside a novice trail at about 3:35, notifying a lift operator of the accident. The lift operator contacted the resort's ski patrol, according to Whitetail General Manager Don MacAskill.
Arriving at the scene of the accident, ski patrol members administered first aid and called for a Medivac helicopter, MacAskill said.
"There were a couple of eye witnesses who indicated he lost control, fell and lost a ski and then hit a tree," he said.
Police said Johnson was skiing close to the edge of the resort's Snow Park novice trail when the accident happened.
A Maryland State Police helicopter transported the boy to Washington County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 4:37 p.m.
Johnson had been skiing at Whitetail with the Saint Jan Deshantel Ski Group from Gaithersburg, Md. He had previous skiing experience, police said.
MacAskill said the accident marked the second death in the ski resort's history. Another fatal accident occurred in the mid-1990s, he said.
He said the resort has some sports injuries of various types every year, but that skiing and snowboarding are no more hazardous than any other high activity sport, and less dangerous than some.
He said the resort's staff has the boy's family in its thoughts this week.
"On behalf of the ski patrol and staff, we would like to express our deepest sympathy to the family," he said. "They are in our thoughts and prayers."
It seems most ski deaths occur when a skier hits an immovable object. The most common immovable objects are trees and chairlift poles. Chairlift poles are normally padded, trees aren't.
From what I've read, helmets wouldn't have prevented death in *most* incidents. Helmets, however, are very effective for injury prevention in skier collisions and when a skier hits their head on the ground due to a hard fall.
Rememeber that Christopher Reeve was wearing a riding helmet when his horse crashed.
Isn't Christopher Reeve still alive and with his family?
Helmets have become a buzzword in the ski and snowboard industry since last winter when two helmet-less children died in ski-related accidents. These tragedies, in conjunction with statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimating that 7,700 head injuries and 11 deaths could be prevented each year with helmet use, have led to a national discussion about responsibility and helmet use. Last August, the National Ski Areas Association launched www.lidsonkids.org, a web site designed to educate parents and encourage voluntary helmet use.
Ski Canada had a very negative article about terrain parks two issues ago. The basic gist of the article is that these parks are raising accident stats at ski resorts and putting one heck of a strain on the patrollers. One patroller talked about having to deal with 3 serious accidents simultaneously. Basically, people with no business skiing in parks are hitting the pipe, literally...
From articles about the boy, it is unclear if this kid was skiing in the terrain park, but he was on the same trail as the novice park.
Another issue raised is where on a trail to ski. Resort safety instructions say that one should keep to the center--away from trees. However, the center is usually the iciest section of the trail. The good snow inevitably ends up on the sides. I've made a conscious effort this year to try and stick to the center, but I am still not convinced this is the best approach.
Anyone else have any thoughts either about terrain parks or where to ski on trails. Should local resorts try and limit access to terrain parks somehow?
I'm pretty sure he was not over in the pipe. An acquaintence that works on the mtn heard that the kid was straightlining the run, so that doesn't sound like the pipe.
In addition, even though it is right alongside the main novice slope, that section has a different name and I think officially carries a black rating if you look on the trail map. The article was pretty clear about the trail name and rating.
My acquaintence did not know if he was wearing a helmet or not.
Tom / PM
Skiers straightlining trails, especially inexperienced skiers, is extremely dangerous for the skier and for others on the trail. Yet I see it all the time, especially among young skiers.
Since boarders need to stay on edge, you don't see this among snowboarders.
I basically agree with what you are saying and share most of your philosphies. I'd rather ski less crowded expert terrain than blues cluttered with inexperienced skiers.
My concern is that in this region, we have a limited amount of terrain, and a large number of inexperienced skiers. Unfortunately, these new intermediates need to ski the blue boulevards and can't, like the two of us, avoid the crowds by skiing the black terrain. That's why I wish more people would use the edges for stopping rather than the center of the trails.
you do realize not every tree impact is made at 100 mph and that the resulting injury can be borderline deadly...still making a helmet safer. That little bit of protection may make the difference. Oh, and one more thing... Force = mass * acc the helmet can decrease the effective acceleration of your head into the tree, hence reducing the force on your head...we're not all in the 3rd grade
Two questions for you:
1) What makes you think I personally don't wear a helmet?
2) Why do you yourself not wear a helmet?
I also, was messing around with you on that physics post
I have to respectfully disagree with that statement. I ski the edges all the time and will never stop. As stated, the margins for safety are lower at the edges so I make certain my speed is lower and I'm extra conscious about maintaining control. I rarely ski GS turns near the edge of the trail, and if I do, it's to avoid traffic that had appeared in the middle.
The logical extrapolation of the "avoid the sides of the trail" reasoning is to avoid tree skiing. Tree skiing is one of my favorite types of skiing.
I guess you enjoy "living life on the edge." Sorry, but I couldn't resist the pun.
I agree that one can carry safety concerns too far in what is an inherently risky sport. Admittedly, the better snow is always along the edges and I still ski those areas. I guess my point here is that for people who want to play it safe, stick to the center. More experienced skiers like you can basically go where you want, including gladed areas.
Like you, I rarely stop, but it never ceases to amaze me that skiers and boarders continue to insist upon stopping right in the middle of the trail, and are oblivious to other riders. Most of us don't stop in the middle of I-95 unless we ABSOLUTELY have to. The same should apply to Limelight. If skiers want to stop, they should pull over to the breakdown lane. They should not force skiers to ski the edges to avoid hitting them.
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 01-15-2003).]
Per Sir Isaac Newton:
delta momentum = force * delta time
Due to the immovable nature of a tree, the same skier momentum is dissipated over a shorter delta time. Hence the force, and subsequent injury is greater. Since the delta time is very, very small for tree impacts, the delta force is very large and helmet use may not reduce force enough to prevent death.
If a person is hit instead of a tree, the person absorbs some of the impact and the delta momentum is lower, the delta time is greater and consequently the delta force is lower. Helmet use may make the difference between having a concussion and being uninjured.
Helmet do increase safety, whether or not the safety increase mandates helmet use should be an individual choice. Or parent's decision.
[This message has been edited by JohnL (edited 01-15-2003).]
Take it from your Uncle Otto, trees do not move. As for helmets protecting you in a tree strike scenario, if your head makes a perpendicular impact against a tree or rock above 15-20 mph, you are likely dead, helmet or no helmet.
Most of us like to ski the edge of trails. It is where the good snow is. There is also no margin for error. Make the wrong mistake and you are in the trees. Its just dumb luck after that.
These accidents happen to good skiers as well as mediocre or reckless skiers. A very fine young man from the Liberty Ski School died from internal injuries a few years ago after leaving the edge of a trail in Vt. and hitting a number of objects. I wasn't there, but I knew him as a very strong skier who was not stupidly wild.
I have a very different perspective on tree skiing now. I don't know if I will ever go back to skiing in the woods even though the experience is usually just magical.
My own intimate contact with a tree occurred while skiing in trees. I fell and slid into a downhill tree after hitting the ground. To this day, I have no idea how or why I fell.
The helmet issue is big in the industry right now because of lawsuits involving kids killed while skiing in lessons where helmets were not provided/required. I believe the incidents happened at Aspen or Vail and the allegation is that the area had some duty to require kids in lessons to have helmets.
Kids differ from adults in that their head makes up a larger percentage of their body weight. Unrestrained kids in cars frequently "lead" with their heads. I imagine that the same principle applies in skiing.
Whether you are a kid or not, there are risks in this sport. We may habitually underestimate them. Helmets certainly reduce the risk but are by no means going to end deaths or catastrophic injuries.
[This message has been edited by Otto (edited 01-16-2003).]
I'm a very safety conscious skier. For the most part, I consider possible ramifications of making a mistake or someone else making a mistake. I adjust my skiing and where I ski accordingly. I have no desire to get injured, especially since over-40 guys like myself don't recover too well.
Personally, tree and chute skiing do not scare me. Skiing crowded trails (East or West) scares me to death. While the possible ramification of making a big mistake are probably greater during tree or chute skiing, it's far, far more likely to hit or be hit on a crowded trail. Because of this, I'm definitely not one of the people you see skiing high speed GS turns on a crowded slope.
[This message has been edited by JohnL (edited 01-15-2003).]
I don't wear a helmet cause I'm cheap and it doesn't look 'cool'. Both rediculous reasons i know but hey, i'm shallow and would rather go to Timberline 7 times or so on Thursday College day than spend that money buying a helmet. again, stupid but hey, i am a college kid, we're not famous for making rational decisions.
I guess the reason i defended helmets is cause i see it as a good thing and i don't see any good out of giving them bad press with statistics that aren't necessarily true. If someone is considering one i don't want to discourage them in any way.
On a related note, a kid hit a tree in timberline skiing in the trees with his friend a week ago wednesday. I think he was ok but they did put him on the sled and all and the person behind us on the lift that saw him hit said it looked pretty bad (no helmet).
Oh, and I loved the bit of "Nerdy" Engineering talk. Reminded me of when i had classes and didn't just run around trying to get a thesis project finished. Its hard to finish when you have a flexible schedule, a friend more in love with boarding than you, and snow just keeps coming. What a tough life i live
That definitely sums up my opinion on helmets. Despite being a bit of the devil's advocate on this thread, I'm in the market for a helmet (along with the pair of skis I haven't yet bought). I'll use the helmet often, but not always. I'll primarily use the helmet when skiing terrain parks, rocky or tree-lined trails, or the days I just want to ski really fast. The helmet would be useful for preventing a possible concussion, but I have no illusions about it providing any more safety.
Why not use a helmet always? Well, to provide an analogy: hard-top cars are definitely safer than convertibles. Some days I just want to drive a convertible. Skiing is supposed to be fun, just like driving a convertible.
One final thought on helmets is the "moral hazard" factor, something my wife often talks about. She claims that helmets give certain people the confidence to take more risks and ski faster. That's the "moral hazard." Something to think about....
[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 01-17-2003).]
The info that I have on the fatality was that there was a group of young people and that each group of 4 or 6 had one adult. You know that you can't force people to ski together. Anyway, this one boy was skiing
very fast....according to a witness....and he was going down SnowPark or Snowboard Park, on skier's right. That's over where the Snowboard terrain park USED to be. He lost a ski and then he veered into the woods and hit a tree.
For example, I wonder how many skiing days (lifetime cumulative) the boy had? Had he ever had more than one or two lessons? If so, how long ago? Was he known to be a risk taker?
I'm trying to determine if he was: (a) one of the many kids you see flying down novice trails in a shallow wedge, completely rigid with fear and clueless about how to stop, (but managing to hold on for dear life); (b) whether he was a more experienced skier, but intentionally showing off / reckless / etc.; or (c) he was a good skier, skiing well within his normal limits and it was a "true" accident.
In addition, I wonder what sort of skiing qualifications and safety training the group leaders had? What sort of training / instructions did the group leaders give the kids before they turned them loose? Did the advisors make the kids learn the safety code? Did they do a mini ski-off to evaluate the competency of each kid and place those that couldn't ski in control in lessons? In general, did they have any rules (and penalties) in place with respect to skiing behavior.
Basically, I don't believe that very many, bolt-out-of-the-blue true accidents ever occur. Rather, like a lot of people, I firmly believe that most accidents are caused by multiple failures of the underlying system. In this case, that would be his parents, the trip sponsor (ie, the school), and the resort.
We all have heard the argument stating that that ski areas don't want to get the reputation of being "tough" and hence people will want to go elsewhere, but I can't imagine the large number of out-of-control skiers continuing to exist if WT laid down the law, and told group organizers that their organization would suffer monetary and other penalties if *any* member of their group was caught engaging in unsafe skiing. What would then happen is that this message would be clearly passed along to the kids and penalties imposed on them (eg, be reckless and you get to spend the rest of the day sitting in the bus).
A few days after this accident, I was riding up the lift that passes right by the scene of this accident with the organizer / faculty advisor of a ski group from a Montgomery county high school. I was astonished to learn that not a single one of the preventive measures that I mentioned above were in place for his group. Unfortunately, I suspect this is the norm.
What I did learn from the leader of this other school group was that their leaders and volunteer helpers temporarily became county employees to give them protection against lawsuits. Arghhhh - IMHO, this is exactly the wrong thing to do. When they are acting in loco parentis, they *should* be held responsible for their actions. If I take one of my daughter's friends with us on a ski trip, I don't have and don't expect immunity from lawsuits if I do something which gets the kid hurt. Rather, I treat our guest exactly as I would want my own daughter treated if she was the guest: I lay down some general rules, evaluate the ability of the person, and then give them specific rules based on their ability.
I really don't want to hear any of the usual arguments made by hot-shot skiers about "the freedom of skiing" and "Gestapo-like patrollers". To me, most rants along these lines are nothing but nonsense spewed by immature, irresponsible, self-centered individuals who are completely clueless that they are immature, irresponsible, etc.. I regularly ski extremely fast (ie, not a single person will ever pass me when I am in that mode), have skied for 30+ years, and have never once been pulled over for reckless skiing, never hit anyone, rarely ever have "near misses", and have had only one minor accident in all that time (twisted my own knee about 20 years ago when I accidentally sat down on my tails while intentionally bailing out).
I can only imagine the sadness of the family of this boy. They send him off to have a day of fun, and he never comes home again.
I'm not in favor of rigid controls in skiing, but *reasonable* controls would reduce the incidence of accidents, not interfere with the enjoyment of the sport, and IMHO, are not currently adequate.
Tom / PM
PS - I have now heard a couple of people describe this accident by saying that this kid "lost a ski". I would be willing to bet that this was not a mechanical malfunction and not the root cause of the accident, but simply the binding doing its job when he began his fall.
[This message has been edited by PhysicsMan (edited 01-21-2003).]
I fell off the lift at the mid station when I was 11 because i was riding with my friends and none of us knew how to ride the lift properly. And because "my friends" were jerks and told me were... "Getting off here". Of course they didn't get off... What can I say? I was a sucker in those days. I fell about 8 feet. Fortunately I wasn't hurt but, I was very lucky.
I actually don't think that kids have any fear of skiing. I mean they love the snow naturally and their parents tell them it's safe so like belief in Santa Clause they just don't believe that anything bad can happen. That's how it was for me. And whenever I see a 5 year old happily jetting down a blue groomer with her parents futilely trying to catch her... well there you have it.
Given the nature of BSA it seems even more ridiculous to me that responsibility wasn't taken by the scout masters for training and enforcing safety on the slopes. BSA has strict safety rules from every thing, fires, knife and axe, swimming, if you are caught in a lightning storm etc... And they even certify life guards for swiming, if there is no life guard then no swiming is allowed etc... Unfortunately, I have never once seen anything that specifically addresses skiing safety.
From my experiences no one was ever injured seriously on the ski trips I took with the scouts. But I still feel that everyone potentially responsible for safety: the resort, the scout masters, the parent, and the scouts, are each saying that we are here to "have fun" and that safety is some one else's responsibility. Ultimately it too often left to an every man for himself system. Clearly this is a recipie for disaster when dealing with children.
The best possible solution by the resort is that every child under 13 must ride the lift with an adult. Movie theatres do this all the time and are not accused of being too tough. Even if the kids ski all fast and out of control they still need to find the adult to go back up so they aren't likely to get to far away and thus not to far out of control. My idea.
a bunch of young season passholders (3) at Roundtop got caught airing over fencing from one slope to another (the park to Lafyettes Leap) and had their passes taken for the season. to me thats an appropriate response for very unsafe actions. the next day the kids parents show up at roundtop and ask if they can advance purchase lift tickets for these kids for every day of the season so they can ski. roundtop agrees. seems safety doesnt mean all that much when greenbacks are flashed.