10-year-old skier recovering after snowboarder allegedly hits him, flees scene at Vail
Brayden Head, 10, was out on Vail Mountain on Saturday with his Ski & Snowboard Club Vail coach and some teammates preparing for a big mountain competition coming up on Wednesday. They were on their final run of the day in Blue Sky Basin and had just come down Lover’s Leap, mindfully crossing the intersections as they made their way down the mountain, his coach said.
“I just turned around and hear screaming,” said Brayden’s coach, Hunter Whiting, adding it was a painful scream to hear. “And it’s Brayden on the ground like 8 feet away from his skis.”
Whiting said a snowboarder hit Brayden so hard he ejected from his skis, and one of those skis is completely ruined from the collision. Brayden endured the long journey from Blue Sky Basin to the hospital unknowingly with a broken bone in his shoulder and a bloodied face. Whiting said Brayden turned as the snowboarder came toward him and took the brunt of the collision in his shoulder.
After hours in the hospital and expert care, Brayden will fully recover, his dad said — but his father wants people to know that it’s not OK to leave the scene of an accident on the mountain, especially when a child is involved.
Whiting said when he looked back up, the snowboarder was close to Brayden as he screamed. Whiting said he asked the snowboarder to hang around until ski patrol showed up or meet them at the bottom.
“Brayden was still in shock because he’d broken his arm,” Whiting said.
Whiting recalls the boarder saying “He’s fine, so I’m out of here” before taking off. He also remembers a split second where he thought about chasing the man down. But he instead stayed with the injured Brayden as ski patrol got him all the way to the base of the mountain, where his dad was waiting.
“This is just family for the season,” Whiting said of Brayden and his other skiers. “You care about them.”
Whiting described the snowboarder as wearing an all black helmet, black bottoms, red snowboard, red goggles, a dirty blonde beard and possibly a European accent.
“I understand things happen on the mountain, but the total disregard for human life — let alone a kid — is eating me up,” Brayden’s dad, Bobby Head, said. “Especially it being my son.”
While in the hospital, Brayden was answering doctors with “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” — showing his father’s upbringing in the South and attention to basic manners. All despite being in excruciating pain, his father said. Brayden was also in a serious 4-wheeler accident when he was 5 which required a plate in his face, a nose realignment and more. When the doctor asked him Saturday about his pain on a scale from 0-10, Bobby said his son put this one closer to 7 with the 4-wheeling accident being a 10.
“He’s just a positive kid,” Bobby said. “We just don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Bobby credits Dr. Randy Viola, of the Steadman Clinic, as well as the pediatric surgeon there that helped get Brayden’s shoulder back together without even more extensive surgery.
“We feel very blessed to be in this place where all these world-class surgeons are,” Bobby said. “We look at it as it could have been worse, but it just sucks. He lives for skiing.”
Brayden landed his first clean backflip on Friday, his dad said, and was really looking forward to Wednesday’s competition and building on his seventh-place finish earlier in the season.
“He’s just a big-hearted dude,” Bobby said of his son. “Anyone who knows him would tell you that.”