Helmet crusader seeking new coroner’s report 

Reopening coroner’s report into the death of a local skier could be instrumental in creating nationwide helmet regulations, says advocate

A crusader for standardized helmets and helmet regulations in Canada acknowledges that it is a sensitive issue, but believes that reopening the coroner’s investigation into the death of a Whistler skier could be instrumental to his cause.

"I felt that the report left a few critical questions unanswered," said Richard Kinar, a North Vancouver helmet advocate and former freestyle skier who volunteers as a ski patroller.

"I felt let down because the death was classified as an accident, and while I don’t argue that, I was concerned that the (coroner’s report) didn’t make any recommendations, and that the issue of the helmet was left out of the report."

The skier in question was Dave Sheets, who died at the age of 31 last February as a result of a collision with another skier. The cause of death was determined to be a head injury.

He was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, but according to the coroner’s report, it had previously been damaged.

"Mr. Sheets was wearing a racing helmet and goggles when he collided," wrote the coroner. "The goggles weren’t damaged and the helmet wasn’t scratched or scuffed. However, sometime before this incident, the narrow strip of molded plastic that went around the ear mesh on the left side of the face by the temple had cracked and been repaired with a piece of duct tape. Unfortunately, this was the location that was hit with great force by the other skier’s knee."

The coroner later made it clear that she didn’t believe that the helmet was a contributing factor in the case because of the force of the collision.

Still, Kinar wants to know more about the helmet that Sheets was wearing, and get an expert opinion on whether or not it could have been a contributing factor to the injury. He has written a letter to the Chief Coroner for the province, requesting that the investigation be reopened.

If the Chief Coroner agrees to reopen the case and determines that the helmet was at fault in any way, then Kinar hopes the coroner will make a recommendation concerning the standardization of helmets.

Kinar says he doesn’t fault the first coroner’s report or the coroner for not making any recommendations because he believes it will take an expert in the field of helmets and head injuries to make that connection.

Kinar understands that people are still upset about Sheets’ death and are sensitive to the idea of reopening the investigation. However, he points out the fact that Dave Sheets’ friends created a memorial fund in his memory to purchase critical care equipment for the Whistler Health Care Centre, to create something positive out of the tragedy. He says he is trying to do the same thing in lobbying to create a national helmet standard and education program for all of Canada that has the potential to save lives and protect people from disabilities.

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