Skier who died was not wearing a helmet
A 15-year-old British girl who died Saturday in a ski accident on the Nevada side of Heavenly Ski Resort has been identified as Rachel Louise Williams of Hayle, England.
Witnesses said Williams struck a tree while skiing in bounds in the area of the Stagecoach lift. Heavenly Ski Patrol and Tahoe-Douglas County Fire Department officials attempted to revive the girl. Autopsy reports indicate she died of injuries to the head. The Sheriff’s office revealed she was not wearing a helmet.
Her skiing experience is unknown.
Williams was one of 30 students and seven adults visiting with a tour group from the Hayle Community School in England. Williams’ father flew to Reno from England on Sunday afternoon.
The accident has raised questions about the need for snow sport safety devices. Heavenly requires snowboarders to have leashes attached to their boards. This helps prevent boards from colliding with skiers and boarders.
The ski area rents helmets, but it can not force children and adults to wear them.
Dennis Harmon, managing director at Heavenly, said that while “there is definitely more utilization” of helmets than there has been in years past, it is still “a personal decision.”
He did say that most children enrolled in ski classes are choosing to wear them.
There is a resounding feeling that helmets are a personal choice. The public relations supervisor for Sierra-at-Tahoe, Ben McLeod, agrees. He does, however, advise helmets for amateur use and thinks wearing a helmet sets a good example for kids.
“When you are first learning, it really helps,” McLeod said.
The United States of America Snowboarding Association requires all of its competitors to wear helmets during competitions. The USASA is not the only group trying to lay some ground rules for snow sports.
Last year the New Jersey Legislature signed a bill proposed by Sen. Anthony Bucco of New Jersey into law requiring operators under the age of 14 to wear helmets while “downhill skiing.” This includes the operation of skis, snowboards, sleds, toboggans and similar vehicles.
Jedd Medefind, press secretary for Sen. Tim Lesley, R-Tahoe City, said the California Legislature has “nothing in the pipes right now,” concerning snow sport helmet use.
Lesley does feel that the decision to use helmets and other protective devices while on the slopes, should ultimately rest with parents. If legislation were introduced, Lesley would make decisions about snow sport safety based on a case to case basis.
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