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1 year after boy was paralyzed, Calgary’s sledding policy remains unchanged

Alex McEwan was paralyzed in a tobogganing accident in Jan. 2016.
Alex McEwan was paralyzed in a tobogganing accident in Jan. 2016. Global News

A Calgary teen now lives in a wheelchair after an unfortunate accident just over a year ago.

Alex McEwan, 15, was tobogganing with friends in Silver Springs when he hit a pole and was paralyzed from the waist down.

READ MORE: ‘I went headfirst into a light post’: Calgary teen paralyzed after tobogganing 

The hill is not a city-approved tobogganing site, but McEwan’s family told Global News it is popular for sledding.

According to City Parks Manager Todd Reichardt, there are bylaws against tobogganing on unsanctioned hills, but to his knowledge the city has not issued any tickets for unsafe sledding.

“While I can certainly have some compassion for wanting to avoid another injury like that, there is ultimately a level of responsibility on people.”

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McEwan and his mother Stella told Global News they are not sure a warning would have made any difference in his case.

“It was just some bad luck that he hit a patch of ice, and turned the wrong way and he ended up going into a pole instead of something else,” Stella said.

“Nobody could have planned it… Nobody did anything wrong, nobody did anything right. It just happened.”

Reichardt said there are 22 designated tobogganing sites in the city of Calgary, and the city inspects those hills to remove debris, jumps and other potential hazards.

McEwan’s mother said she was surprised to hear, after the accident, that there are designated hills in the city. She said she wonders why more isn’t done to tell Calgarians about those locations, or even to inform the public that certain hills are unsafe to sled on.

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Stella said she believes kids should be allowed to make good choices and she is a big proponent of children playing outside. She also said she struggles with what happened with her son.

“Sometimes I go to that hill and I look at it and go, ‘How could something so innocent and wonderful be the place of such horror for me?’ That was the instant our family changed.”

Bowness High School is holding a fundraising event for the McEwans this Saturday. For more information click here.