Heavenly fatality claims 10-year-old girl
A 10-year-old Tucson, Ariz. girl died almost instantly when she lost control and hit a tree while skiing with her family at Heavenly Ski Resort on Saturday.
Authorities said an autopsy performed Monday showed that Jenna Lynn Shumaker’s spinal cord was severed at the base of her skull, probably from a whiplash effect, when she struck the tree.
The girl also suffered severe damage to her spleen and liver, leading investigators to believe she struck the tree with her torso.
“Doctors believe a helmet would not of helped her in this accident because the damage was done by the force of her torso hitting the tree,” said El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Hill.
Hill said the girl was an inexperienced skier who had been skiing on one previous vacation. She had a lesson on Friday, the day before the accident.
Shumaker was skiing down Ridge Run, an intermediate trail, with her 31-year-old cousin around 10 a.m. The girl lost control, went down and skidded off the run. She was airlifted from the top of the mountain to Barton Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 11:02 a.m.
The girl’s death is the first for the resort this year, and the third in the last two years.
Jimmy Lawrence, director of risk management at Heavenly, said the death hit close to home for many employees.
“Many are parents, and they can’t help but think it could have been my kid,” Lawrence said. “Ski patrollers try to stay emotionally detached when they’re doing their job, but when it’s all said and done, it does affect you emotionally.”
Lawrence said the response team has undergone one debriefing on the incident already, and another is planned.
“Stress management is an important part of emergency response,” he said. “It’s important for employees to talk about those feelings and get them out.”
Lawrence also accompanied Shumaker’s family to the hospital.
“It was really rough, but if I can be there to help with anything it’s good,” Lawrence said. “We were able to help them get on airline flights that night, because they needed to be home. It was one less thing they needed to deal with. Our hearts go out to the family.”
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