A crash at the bobsled race on Saturday left one bobsledder with a broken femur and three other people with minor injuries.
The incident took place during the first heat of the Sonny Samuelson Bobsled Race. A sled crashed into a corner at Third Avenue and Spokane Street, breaking a wooden barrier, and striking a woman who was watching the event. A security officer working crowd control confirmed the area where the bobsled crashed had just been cleared moments before, and no one realized a spectator had entered that area again until it was too late.
“They’d just cleared it to make sure no one was there,” confirmed Dave Braithwaite, search manager for Rossland Search and Rescue (RSAR), shortly after the incident.
The Rossland Winter Carnival committee issued a press on Wednesday morning confirming that the spectator had been standing in a prohibited area when she was struck. The release — which was issued after the committee reviewed incident reports and statements from the bobsledder involved in the crash, the City of Rossland, Selkirk Security and first responders on the scene — attributed the accident to “a number of factors involving racer decision-making, sled mechanics, and the spectator being in a prohibited area.”
Witnesses reported they saw the woman go “flying” after being struck.
In total, four people were injured during the incident — three of the bobsledders and the woman. Two ambulances arrived and transported them to the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH) after they had been thoroughly examined on scene. All were identified as having potential head trauma.
In the end, one of the bobsledders had the most serious injury — a broken femur — and the other three walked away with minor injuries. Another one of the bobsledders had a charlie horse and deep bruising on the upper leg and left KBRH on crutches. The spectator had a dislocated kneecap.
“The lady who was hit did quite well,” Braithwaite reported Monday morning. “She walked away 20 minutes after examination at the hospital.”
Member of RSAR and Castlegar Search and Rescue were naturally first on the scene as they were working the event. It was only moments after the crash that volunteers in red coats were seen running toward the accident from either end of the course.
“As soon as it happened one of the members from Rossland Search and Rescue called the ambulance and the fire hall, and we brought our trucks in with emergency stuff — head braces, and blankets and stabilization equipment — just to get started,” said Braithwaite.
Braithwaite explained the skills used during the incident response were the same skills that members practiced during patient packaging at Avalanche Awareness Day on Jan. 14 (see the front page photo of the Jan. 19 edition of Rossland News).
“The exact training that was done [two Saturdays] before was used on that day,” explained Braithwaite. “One of our doctors who was in [that] picture the week before, was also the lead doctor at [the bobsled race].”
Other local doctors who happened to be spectating also came running to help after the crash. In addition to the search and rescue teams, and BC Ambulance, five Kootenay Boundary Fire Rescue crew members also responded to the incident. The firefighters received the call at 10:33 a.m.
The question now being asked is how the incident will affect the bobsledding event moving forward, and the Rossland Winter Carnival committee confirmed in their release on Wednesday the event will continue:
“We will continue to run the Bobsled event at future Winter Carnivals. It is a beloved tradition and one of our most popular events — with participants and spectators alike. We acknowledge that there is an inherent risk with this type of event, as with any high speed, high adrenaline race. We are proud of our excellent safety and accident record for over the past 30 years of hosting this race. We are committed to continuing to [make] this event as safe as possible for everyone involved.”