Friday, October 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Chairlift safety program honors Davis boy’s memory

By
From page A1 | January 16, 2013 |

Family, friends and classmates release balloons on Dec. 20, 2012, in celebration of John's life. Courtesy photo

When 7-year-old John Henderson died last year after falling from a chairlift at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, his family and friends mourned the North Davis Elementary School second-grader who aspired to be an inventor, appreciated books as much as he did sports, and who loved to tell a good joke.

Before long, John’s parents, UC Davis Medical Center physicians Mark Henderson and Helen Chew, channeled their grief into action, partnering with Sugar Bowl officials to create a comprehensive chairlift safety program aimed at protecting other young skiers.

Called the John Henderson Chairlift Safety Initiative, the 13-step program seeks to reduce the risk of lift accidents through measures such as cameras that monitor chairlift loading practices, seat targets and a mandatory restraining-bar lowering policy for children under 51 inches tall.

“After John died, we tried to figure out if there were contributing factors, and if something could have been done to prevent it,” Henderson said in a recent interview. “We hoped to make some type of enduring change so this type of tragedy didn’t happen to someone else.”

John, who had been skiing since the age of 4, was in his second year as a member of the Sugar Bowl ski team when he fell from the Mt. Lincoln Express chairlift on the morning of Dec. 18, 2011. An investigation into what caused the fall proved inconclusive due to few direct eyewitnesses and conflicting accounts, according to the Sugar Bowl website.

However, the probe did reveal that the lift’s safety bar had not been lowered for John and two other young ski-team members before they began their ascent, nor were they accompanied by an adult.

While investigators found no evidence of foul play or horseplay, “ultimately, our safety practices were insufficient to prevent this tragedy,” the website says. John died at a Reno hospital two days after the fall.

Some family and friends advised Chew and Henderson to take legal action against the resort, but “it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do,” Chew said. “We wanted to, if possible, do something positive in John’s memory.”

“I’m not sure what a lawsuit would accomplish,” Henderson added.

By joining forces with Sugar Bowl, the couple said, they’ve ensured that the resort has improved policies in place that will be taught to all employees and shared with other ski resorts across the country.

“We were more than willing to work with them, and honored that they wanted to work with us to take this tragedy and make something positive out of it,” said Nicole Lieberman, director of risk management at Sugar Bowl, who worked closely with Henderson and Chew during the past year to create the initiative. “It’s really quite amazing that a family that’s gone through something like that would reach out.”

Lieberman said while the resort has always followed American National Standards Institute guidelines regarding chairlift safety practices, “this is a more specific and detailed policy.”

The chairlift safety initiative appears on the Sugar Bowl website, www.sugarbowl.com, accompanied by a picture of John smiling as he rides a lift, rays of sunlight peeking through the pine trees behind him. Some highlights of the program include:

* Installation of web-based cameras at the Mt. Lincoln and Christmas Tree chairlifts — and eventually at all lifts — to monitor loading processes, lift operator practices and skier conduct. Henderson and Chew said this suggestion arose from their own work in the medical field, where cameras are used to monitor patients or videotape medical students as they learn to interview patients.

“There is technology that can not only detect a problem, but also train people to do their jobs and improve the process,” Henderson said.

* Seat targets on the Nob Hill, Christmas Tree and White Pine chairlifts — and on all lifts by January 2014 — that guide riders to the proper seating position. The idea was inspired by the “Sit on the Spot” program at Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah, which has twice won National Ski Areas Association awards for its chairlift program.

* Mandatory lowering of the chairlift restraining bar for all riders under 51 inches tall, even if they are riding with an adult.

Henderson said the height restriction idea came from Disneyland, where “if you’re below a certain height, you’re not allowed to ride a dangerous ride.” It made sense for the ski slopes as well, he said.

The initiative also addresses training, outreach, student-instructor ratios and incident investigation practices. Lieberman, who described the ski industry as a close-knit community, said other resorts are paying attention to the changes.

“They’re looking at what we’re doing and what portions of it will work for them,” she said.

Meanwhile, there are lasting tributes to John in Davis as well. Last spring, the North Davis Elementary campus unveiled a tile memorial created in his honor, and classmates planted a red oak tree on a greenbelt near his family’s home.

This past Dec. 20, John’s family, friends and classmates gathered for a celebration of his life, releasing bouquets of blue and green balloons into the sky.

Chew said the family has skied at Sugar Bowl several times since John’s death, taking along their 17-year-old son Paul, who also enjoys the sport.

“It was incredibly difficult,” Chew said. “But this was a place that John loved, and while it was very hard and painful, we wanted to keep that in mind.”

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene

Comments

comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    A-Z: Downtown Davis is the place to celebrate

    By Kimberly Yarris | From Page: C1

     
    Courageous Thompson tapped for cycling shrine

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    UC researchers: How low-water can our landscapes go?

    By Katie F. Hetrick | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Testimony begins in Winters murder trial

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Hong Kong protesters to vote on staying in streets

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Cloud business lifts Microsoft’s quarterly results

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Host families needed for students and teachers from Mexico

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Halloween Dance set Friday for teens

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Yoga and chanting workshop planned

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Downtown menu: coffee, boba tea, dessert

    By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: C3

     
    Can you give them a home?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Scientists work to save endangered desert mammal

    By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    ‘Homeopathy at Home’ program planned

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Celebrate origami at Davis library

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Garden sale and open house features water-wise demos

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C4

    Meet Poppenga at dog park Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Day of the Dead folk art class set

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Flea Market planned Sunday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Enjoy A Taste of Capay at historic ranch

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Red-hot tunes set at Blues Harvest

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Learn how to fill a cornucopia with flowers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Video highlights Props. 1 and 2

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Bay Bridge art project needs $4 million to keep shining

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Weir honored, a year early

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    For a good cause

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A6

    Americans, internationals make connections

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    Explorit: Poison-proof your home with free lecture

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A6

    Sutter auxiliary seeks volunteers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    School board hopefuls discuss homework policy

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

    Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Project Linus seeks donations

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Forum

    The magic is long gone

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Subs have other concerns

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

    What’s next with Ebola?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    More theories on the abstention

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Rights beget responsibilities

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Water returns to its source

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    A solution to the drought

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Experience nature’s treasures

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    .

    Sports

    Aggies expect a bonny meeting in Sacramento

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    DHS footballers take on Pleasant Grove

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Bye No. 2 comes at perfect time for nicked-up UCD

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Shhh. Are Aggie women BWC’s best-kept secret?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Bump, set, playoffs: Blue Devil girls clinch spot in postseason

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    UCD roundup: Preseason awards roll in for Aggie hoopster Hawkins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

     
    Sharks suffer from road woes

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B12

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    DMTC plans ‘My Fair Lady’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to perform

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Calling all artists for upcoming show

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    ‘St. Vincent:’ Quite a character

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    Rumpledethumps to play at Village Homes Performers’ Circle

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

     
    Car Care: Five things to ask yourself when shopping for a new vehicle

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B7

    .

    Obituaries

    Lewis Melvin Dudman

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Ann Foley Scheuring

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, October 24, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B3