Until Friday I had never enjoyed hearing the sound of a child screaming. But after a terrible accident, the shrill shrieking of a child’s voice let me know that he was alive. He was breathing. He was conscious. But he still needed ski patrol. The onlookers from the chair felt helpless. What do you do when someone is hurt below you? At first, I started to reach for my phone-but I realized that it would take too long to retrieve from my deepest most protected pocket and be able to contact ski patrol so I screamed to the people on the chair in front of us to pass the information forward to get the message to the top of the lift that ski patrol was needed at Tower Six.
We shouted the message forward until the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol confirmed that they were on their way, then helped calm people who had seen the accident. The ride to the top was a long one because of the helpless feeling of not being on the snow to help-but help was coming fast! Rescuers from the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol responded quickly, and within minutes they had a snowmobile and sled at the child’s side. But one thing seemed to be missing. None of the onlookers ever saw a parent or any adult skiing with this child, who appeared to be about eight or nine years old and came down the hill without a single turn from the top of Gold Coast.
Another skier who saw the incident but would like to remain anonymous was a former ski patrol member at Mammoth Mountain. We talked about the accident and debriefed about what we had just seen. Both of us agreed that the lift tower padding helped protect the child compared to hitting a tree and took a moment to highlight what onlookers did right and what people could do better in future situations.
One thing that we did that was good was to yell to the chairs in front of us who had not seen the accident to let them know that help was needed, and to be sure to note the tower number that the accident took place. We tried to minimize hysteria by saying that ski patrol was needed at that tower number rather than shout that a kid had skied into the tower. Ski patrol did a great job responding quickly, and a member who was on the chair was able to help calm other riders while also attending to his radio.
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But what about helping before the kid hit the tower? Advice that I was given is to yell “lay down” when you see someone that is out of control, because yelling “fall” only adds to the fear they are experiencing and they would turn to control their speed if they could.
The accident took place under the Emigrant lift at Squaw Valley around 1 pm on Friday, April 12, 2019, and the young boy was wearing a helmet. We did not see an air evacuation and assume that the child was taken to a local hospital by ambulance. I sincerely hope that this child is okay and would like to convey a heartfelt “GET WELL SOON” from everyone on the chair and give a big thank you to the Squaw Valley Ski Patrol for their professionalism during this event.