Wife of London, Ont., man injured in tobogganing incident hopeful for recovery

Pete Mogan and Jessica Bickell. Mogan was seriously injured in a toboggan accident on Feb. 6, 2021. via The Rep Room London/Instagram

Jessica Bickell says her husband, Pete Mogan, is “a very strong, determined man” and she believes he will recover, “but right now, there’s a lot of unknowns” about the extent of injuries the London father suffered in a tobogganing accident over the weekend.

The couple, owners of The Rep Room gym in London’s Hyde Park neighbourhood, had taken their three kids tobogganing on Saturday when the accident happened.

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In a Facebook post midday Wednesday, Bickell wrote that “Pete is home.”

Bickell told Global News on Tuesday that Mogan suffered broken ribs, a fractured skull, and a brain bleed after hitting his head twice on Saturday while tobogganing with his family at the hill near Byron Somerset public school.

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“We just went out for a day of fun with the family tobogganing and he went down the hill and there was a ramp, kind of, almost like a second hill at the bottom. And I don’t think we realized how large it was and he went quite high in the air at the bottom and came back, hit his head,” Bickell explained.

“And then the momentum of the hit, he swung forward and hit his head again, basically face-planting into the snow and he was knocked unconscious instantly. I had to run down the hill and I basically called 911 right away.”

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Even before the accident, the last year has been difficult for the couple as gyms have been particularly impacted by pandemic-related restrictions.

“It’s been tough for small business owners and I think especially gym owners at this time. But, you know, we have an amazing community and we have a group of people who are very understanding and [who] support us,” she told Global News.

“We’re just going to take it one day at a time. I’ve got a great team of staff and we’re just going to do the best we can.”

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Bickell says it never crossed her mind that tobogganing could lead to such serious injuries. Now, she’s urging everyone to wear a helmet.

“No matter how small the hill is, I just think it’s so important to wear a helmet when you’re doing these kinds of activities. You just never know.”

She says she also feels the hill where her husband was injured should be closed to the public for tobogganing.

“Not only my husband’s accident, but there have been several other accidents that have happened on that hill.

“I just think that it needs to be closed down to the public when it comes to tobogganing.”

The city’s managing director of parks and recreation, Scott Stafford, says a visit was made to the hill on Monday and the department “will be making changes to the drainage berm to reduce the dip at the bottom of it.”

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“The City will also be changing the signage to remind people about safety precautions,” he said in an email.

“While there are a number of hills in London that residents often use for tobogganing, these aren’t formally designated as tobogganing or sledding hills. We encourage anyone who is tobogganing, whether on public or private property, to put safety first.”

Read more: Family of 4-year-old killed in Niagara sledding accident grateful for support

Jennifer Britton, injury prevention specialist with the trauma program at London Health Sciences Centre, also stressed the importance of helmets and warned Londoners to pay attention to speed and potential obstacles.

“I know that might be a surprise to some people, but we need to treat tobogganing like skiing and snowboarding and wear a helmet that would be appropriate for those sports,” she explained.

“When it comes to tobogganing, it’s thinking about the potential risk factors for these injuries.”

Britton says people should watch for potential obstacles like trees, waterways, benches, or even other tobogganers as well as looking for a long runoff so the toboggan can safely come to a stop.

Read more: Teen girl killed, toddler injured in N.Y. sledding accident

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A GoFundMe organized by Stacey Evoy describes Mogan and Bickell as pillars of the community, “always the first to jump in to help any time help is needed supporting Tough Mudder, Braz for the Cause, toy drives for kids at Christmas and many, many more.”

In less than 48 hours, the online campaign has raised more than $41,000 in donations.

Bickell says her focus now is on making sure Pete gets the therapy and treatment that he needs, though it’s too soon to say what that will entail.

“He’s obviously not able to work. And I just want to make sure that I’m able to take good care of him and that we’re able to continue on with the gym, but also take time for him to heal and recover. It’s amazing that we’ll be able to do that and just focus on Pete getting better,” she said of the community support.

“I am blown away by the amount of just love and support that Pete has received and I have received. And it’s been very emotional and I’m kind of getting choked up just thinking about it.”

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