North Vancouver RCMP are appealing for witnesses to an incident on Grouse Mountain this spring that left a 13-year-old boy with a “bullet-sized hole” in his skull and a traumatic brain injury.
It happened on March 30, about two-thirds down a ski run called “The Cut” and within sight of the Screaming Eagle Chairlift.
According to North Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Peter DeVries, the boy had swerved to avoid an adult male skier, when the man struck him in the head with a ski pole.
DeVries said police don’t know if the strike was intentional or accidental, but the consequences were severe.
“The tip of the adult’s ski pole struck the youth in the temporal bone and actually punctured his skull and entered approximately three centimetres,” he said.
According to the boy’s father, David Keir, it may not have been pure chance.
“As Max describes it he was skiing, some other guy was skiing, they came together briefly. Max thought he was skiing erratically,” said Keir.
“In Max’s own words, ‘He threw his pole at me.'”
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The teen didn’t realize he had been injured until he arrived at the bottom of the run where a woman noticed the wound and offered to help, DeVries said.
His parents then picked him up and took him for stitches, but the injury worsened and he was eventually taken to B.C. Children’s Hospital, he added.
“We didn’t know at the time this was a traumatic brain injury. We didn’t know at the hospital it was a traumatic brain injury,” said Keir.
“Later that night Max’s symptoms deteriorated. He was dazed, he was confused, he was agitated. We said, ‘something’s wrong.'”
It wasn’t until the teen was given a CT scan that doctors spotted the “bullet sized” hole, Keir said.
Despite a family policy to ski with a helmet, the teen wasn’t wearing one at the time. However, DeVries said it’s unclear whether a helmet would have prevented the injury.
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Investigators are now looking to speak with the woman who offered help, along with anyone who witnessed the incident from the chairlift or the slopes.
DeVries said the victim was dressed in tan/brown ski pants and a white Adidas hoodie with a black logo on the front.
The man who struck him was wearing a yellow ski jacket, DeVries said.
“We’re also asking the skier who was involved in the incident to do the right thing and come forward,” he added.
In the meantime, Keir says the injury has been life-changing for his son, leaving the teen able to attend school for just one or two hours a day, and unable to participate in sports or play.
“He’s a great kid, he’s a strong kid, everything is moving in the right direction,” Keir said.
“We’re hopeful that six, nine, 12 months from now we’re able to say, ‘Yeah, we’re able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.'”
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