Skiing and snowboarding are inherently risky sports – Riding a chairlift to the top of a run shouldn’t be. In that lies the plight of Terri Proctor and her daughter Keely.
In 2010, Keely, 8 years old at the time, sustained catastrophic injuries after falling 32 feet from a ski chairlift at Snow Valley, CA. Keely was hospitalized for weeks, undergoing multiple surgeries to repair and treat severe injuries sustained to internal organs. Fortunately Keely has overcome this tragic incident, and with the help of her mother Terri, she is fighting to see that other snow-sports recreationists are not subjected to a similar fate.
Terri Proctor, mother of four, is fighting to change safety rules on ski lifts after her young daughter had a tragic fall.
Proctor is working to enact Keely’s Law, to create an option to use safety restraints.
She is also trying to update industry standards and research regarding ski lift safety.
“It is not our goal to mandate safety. It is our goal to have it as an option,” Proctor said.
Her then-8-year-old daughter Keely was severely injured in 2010 after falling 32 feet onto her stomach out of a ski lift.
“Keely is an accomplished, confident skier, but lost her balance on the ski lift,” Proctor said. Proctor asked herself after the accident, “Why weren’t there any safety bars on the ski lift?”
There are currently no ski lift regulations in California, and at this time only Vermont and New York have any regulations in place, according to Proctor.
Keely was in the hospital for four weeks and out of school for another two and a half weeks.
“This is still so emotional for me when I talk about it, I have nightmares about something needing to be done,” Proctor said.
“Some of Keely’s internal organs were severely damaged; she eventually had one kidney and part of her liver removed,” Proctor said. “Internal bleeding presented another challenge. In total, five surgeries and four weeks of treatment required 30 units of blood supplied by LifeStream donors.”
“In 2011 Keely wrote letters to (President Barack) Obama and other politicians to prevent this type of unnecessary accident and injury from happening to other children,” Proctor said.
Keely did receive a response from Obama and a written letter from another politician.
“She then looked at me and said “what do we do next, Mom?”
At this time Proctor got involved and started speaking out on the issue of ski lift safety to local politicians.
“Last month we went to Mammoth and met with the California Ski Industry Association,” Proctor said. “They were wonderful and opened my eyes about trying to make safety restraints an industry standard, rather than trying to push it into legislation at this time. The association also pledged their commitment to finding a solution.”
Proctor has asked ski resorts to assist in educating the public in proper chair use and awareness.
“The assumption that sitting on a park bench high in the sky with no restraints is safe and part of the inherent risk of the sport needs to be re-analyzed, particularly in regards to children,” Proctor said. “Look at ski lift benches, they are made for adult femurs, children are slumped over when sitting in them.”
According to Proctor, she has the full support of the California Ski and Snowboard Safety Organization and the SnowSport Safety Foundation.
“I am making baby steps, but it is a start. At the bare minimum we are trying to make people aware of how to sit in a chair.”
Those baby steps include reaching out to legislators. In a Powerpoint presentation she sent this message:
“Human error should not result in grave consequences that seemingly could be deterred or prevented with the addition of seemingly simple safety mechanisms that a patron should have the option of using or not using.”
Keely’s experience was tragic, but it may make a difference for others, and it hasn’t broken her stride.
“Keely is back on the slopes and is still an amazing skier,” Proctor said.
Although catastrophic ski lift accidents are statistically rare, chairlift accidents have made the headlines repeatedly this winter. With the advent of each of these incidents (what about the dozens of events that go unpublished?) we are hard pressed to ask what could have been done to prevent this.
Could simple, unintrusive measures be taken to reduce further chairlift related deaths and/or accidents such as that suffered by Keely? Keely and her family certainly believe so.