Skier at Keystone Resort suffers multiple broken bones after alleged hit-and-run collision
January 4, 2017
At around 3 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 2, Stu Press and his girlfriend, Jenny Elma, were skiing down Haywood, a blue run at Keystone Resort leading to the base of the mountain. The two were roughly 50 feet from finishing their last run of the day, Press said, when he saw two snowboarders speed past him and heard more coming.
He looked back at Elma, just in time to see another snowboarder launch off a bump and slam into her, sending both tumbling down the run. The rider, who Press said was uninjured, stuck around only briefly before turning his board downhill and speeding away.
"He totally shattered her leg and then rode off," Press said. "She was laying on the ground screaming and I said, 'You need to stick around.' Then while I was down there tending to Jenny he just kind of scooted away and then he was gone."
Ski patrol took Elma down to the base on a sled, where she was given painkillers and loaded onto an ambulance bound for the Steadman Clinic in Vail. There, doctors told her she had multiple fractures in her left tibia, a broken fibula and a cracked meniscus.
Elma spent the night at the clinic, Press said, in pain the whole time despite regular doses of Dilaudid, a powerful painkiller. The next day, she had surgery to install two plates in her tibia. (She was not available for comment due to the procedure and post-operative recovery).
Press said Elma, a Keystone ski instructor, is expected to be at the clinic until Friday. She won't be able to put weight on her leg for three months, and after that will need a year of physical therapy.
If Press's account is accurate, the snowboarder violated the Colorado Ski Safety Act, which requires people involved in a collision that causes injury to give their name and address to ski patrol.
In a report he filed with the Summit County Sheriff's Office — which has jurisdiction on the slopes — Press described the snowboarder as approximately 5'9" with a medium frame who was likely in his late teens or early twenties. He was also described as wearing a black and red Ruroc Inferno helmet, a unique type of full-face racing helmet. Press didn't recall the color of his jacket but said that he had light brown pants.
Ski collisions are typically settled in civil court, and attorneys say they only pursue cases against people who are insured. Insurance companies usually settle, but if they resist a claim, the case can go to trial.
Earlier this year, a Summit County jury ordered a Douglas County resident to pay $260,000 in damages after he collided with another snowboarder, separating his shoulder.
On rare occasions, collisions end up in criminal court, assistant district attorney Heidi McCollum said.
"Very few end up with criminal proceedings," she said. "The ones that do typically have an assault charge with them because someone was very seriously injured. … Prior cases have usually come when someone was injured, and they were injured because someone wasn't following the rules."
The Ski Safety Act also requires skiers to obey all warnings and signs, like those designating areas as slow skiing zones. Haywood is marked as a slow skiing area on trail maps.
On Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff's office opened a criminal investigation into the incident. That's fairly uncommon, said Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons, who estimated that his office sees fewer than a half-dozen such cases every season.
Detectives have a variety of ways to investigate skiing hit-and-runs, but tips from the public are the most effective tool, FitzSimons said.
The sheriff's office encourages anyone with information to contact detective Scott Wagner at (970) 423-8913.
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