Parents give different views of snowmobile collision
Some parents say snowmobiles were going too fast on race courseBy Veronica WhitneyDaily Staff WriterVAIL – When Lulu Roberts came back home to Steamboat Springs after watching her daughter race in Vail Saturday, she said she was worried about the speed the snowmobiles were moving in the Golden Peak race arena.On Sunday, Ashley Stamp, 13, who was warming up for a slalom race in Golden Peak, died when she collided with a race crew snowmobile driven by Mark Chard, 27, a Vail Resorts employee.”They were flying over the snow, catching air. You could see sky between the snowmobiles and the snow,” said Roberts, whose daughter, Cassady was Stamp’s teammate in the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. “It almost looked like freestyle snowmobiling.”Since Sunday’s accident, witnesses have given conflicting reports about the collision, including whether the snowmobile had a siren or light on, and whether Stamp was wearing headphones. Initial Colorado State Patrol reports said the siren and light were on and that Stamp was wearing headphones. The reports also said the snowmobile was moving at about 10 mph, but that’s a speed some Steamboat Springs’ parents dispute.”The snowmobiles were going at easily 20 mph and I didn’t hear any sirens,” said Lulu’s husband, Stuart Roberts, who was at the race course on Sunday to watch his four children. “Even after it happened, (the snowmobiles) were flying up and down the course. I’ve never seen such negligence in my life.”Compared to other racesJeff Gibbs, whose son, Alex, was skiing behind Stamp when the collision happened and is an eye witness, agreed with Roberts.”My perception of being on the race arena Saturday and Sunday was that the snowmobiles were operating in an irresponsible manner because of the speed,” said Gibbs, 49, of Steamboat Springs, who has been involved in ski racing for 11 years. “Compared to what I see in other race arenas, it was too fast. It caught my eye and other people who have made eye witness statements said it was surprising to them.”Although he declined to say what his son saw, Gibbs said Alex’s statement to the state patrol wasn’t much different from his.”(Alex) believes this was an accident and that it could have been avoided,” Gibbs said. “He was in shock and couldn’t believe what he saw, but his description was very factual and not particularly emotional.”Stricter rules? The Colorado State Patrol is still investigating the collision that happened at 8:20 a.m. Sunday. Eagle County District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said he is still waiting for State Patrol to finish the investigation to determine if criminal charges should be filed.Vail Resorts officials declined to comment on the accident. But Stuart Roberts said he has spoken with Vail Resorts chief executive Adam Aron. “My children said all weekend the snowmobile drivers were yelling to them, ‘Get the hell out the way,'” Roberts said. “Something has to be done to regulate snowmobiles. “I spoke to Adam Aron and I told him this needed to be an opportunity to lay some rules on where and how snowmobiles should operate,” Roberts added. “He was very nice and said, ‘That was the issue-of-the-day they were considering.'”Andy Wirth, who was watching his sons race on Sunday in Vail, said he didn’t see anything out of the ordinary in how the race was managed overall, including the snowmobile traffic.”I saw snowmobiles in the race arena as I helped my sons prepare for the race,” said Wirth, president of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club board of directors. “I didn’t see any use of the vehicles that was unprofessional or going at excessive speeds.”‘Weren’t any sirens’Gibbs said Because of the way the snowmobile landed after the accident – on its left side – it appears Stamp never made it over the knoll that snowmobile came over.”If the snowmobile had come over the knoll at a slower pace, it could have been more easily avoidable,” he said.Gibbs disputed the initial report from State Patrol saying the snowmobiles on the race arena were using sirens.”There weren’t any sirens,” he said, “nor did the snowmobiles that were operating there that morning have any safety flags on. Also the report that (Stamp) was using headphones is incorrect. “There was also an indication that the skier was in an area she shouldn’t have been,” he added. “I skied in that same area and it was within the race arena.”Stamp, an experienced ski racer, last year won a Junior Olympic title in giant slalom. She also competed in the Whistler Cup in Whistler, Canada, in March, an international children’s race, where she finished 14th in the giant slalom. Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or firstname.lastname@example.org.