Tragedy at Nelson college sheds light on helmet use

Friends of a 20-year-old who died last week after a ski accident are rallying to promote helmet safety in skiing and snowboarding.

Selkirk College students and friends of a 20-year-old who died last week after a ski accident are rallying to promote helmet safety in skiing and snowboarding.

William Joseph Sidney Schooler — who is originally from Edmonton, Alberta — fell and struck his head last week while using a makeshift ramp that he and a friend had built at the college.

“It’s just been awful,” said Barry Auliffe, director of communications at Selkirk. “With the number of students we have, of course these things can happen, but typically it’s a student in a car accident or something like that. To have the accident at the college and of course he passed away a couple days later in Kelowna, but to have it happen so close to home is very upsetting.”

Students and friends of Schoolers held a memorial at Mike’s Pub at the Hume Hotel on Friday where they showed a movie and launched their campaign called I Will which promotes safety and helmet use in skiing and snowboarding.

Because the accident happened on the weekend, Auliffe said the college has been trying to piece together what exactly took place.

“First of all we had to find out what happened because it was a student activity on the weekend that was not sanctioned by the college,” said Auliffe. “Some students had set up a jump in the night time and were skiing down the side of the lawn and then would jump onto the railing. We’ve got that information all together now. We’re in the process of determining what we’re going to do about it.”

Schooler was not wearing a helmet and although he was hurt, he didn’t seek medical attention.

According to acting regional coroner Chico Newell, Schooler died in Kelowna General Hospital on November 28 as a result of a closed head injury.

“He wasn’t wearing a helmet,” said Newell. “I can only go so far as to say it’s likely he would not have sustained trauma to the extent that he did if he was wearing a helmet. No one could say if he had been wearing a helmet that he would have survived.”

With ski hills opening around the province Newell said it’s important that people hitting the slopes are keeping safety in mind.

“The matter has been referred to the chief coroner’s office for consideration, but simply in my mind, it’s that time of year that ski hills are opening and everyone’s thinking about outdoor recreation,” said Newell. “We need to ensure everybody is looking after themselves properly, that they’re properly geared up and safe. That includes wearing a helmet, whether they’re skiing or snowboarding or tobogganing or sledding or whatever it is they might be doing.”

Schooler’s family donated his organs and Newell said that it is a “very, very powerful thing to do.”

“This is a tragedy defined and as a coroner this is what I consider the ultimate gift that could go on to change the lives of many individuals and their families. It’s a very, very powerful thing to do,” he said.

Schooler, who was considered to be a veteran skier, was in his second year at the ski resort operation management program at Selkirk College.

— With files from Greg Nesteroff


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