Parents say helmet likely saved boy’s life in Highlands collision
March 21, 2002
The 5-year-old boy who skied into a tree Tuesday at Aspen Highlands has 10 stitches in his forehead and a large dent in his ski helmet, but is “probably in perfect shape,” his father said on Wednesday.
Eliot Levmore of Chicago is listed in good condition at Children’s Hospital in Denver after running into the tree headfirst. His parents credit the helmet he was wearing with saving his life.
“There is quite a dent in that helmet,” said Eliot’s father, Saul Levmore. “It’s seems pretty obvious that the helmet did a great job.”
Saul Levmore said his son has been playing Nintendo video games in the hospital since the accident, and was groggy, cranky and complaining of a sore neck. The family was in town for a vacation to visit relatives in the area.
According to Eliot’s mother, Julie Roin, Eliot was taking a ski-school class when the accident occurred. Although neither she nor her husband witnessed the crash, she said she was told that as the children in the class were going over a series of bumps, her son suddenly veered into the trees at the side of the Lower Jerome run.
“I had skied with Eliot there the day before,” Roin said. “The snow was really fast, the rental skis were really good and he built up a lot of speed in a short space. In this instance I don’t know whether he caught an edge and went flying into the trees, or tried to stop or avoid a small jump the class was doing, and went to the side not thinking about the trees.”
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Levmore said Eliot has no memory of the crash, but does remember earlier that morning. The boy, who will turn 6 at the end of April, was unconscious for two minutes after the crash.
Roin said she does not blame the ski school at Aspen Highlands for the accident, noting that the accident could have happened when she was there, and that “little kids are just like that.”
Eliot was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, and then airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Denver where he was listed in “serious” condition. But Roin said since his outlook was so positive as of Wednesday, they will probably take him back to Chicago at the end of this week.
Besides the laceration on his forehead from where his helmet crushed against his head, Roin said her son may only have to wear a neck brace for a short while.
“We have ’em in helmets,” said Roin of both Eliot and their 9-year-old son, Nathaniel. “And we also wear helmets, because there’s always that possibility that you could run into a tree, although you always hope that’s just not going to happen. But you’re happy when it happens and you’re wearing a helmet.”
Roin and Levmore say they are both “paranoid” and “neurotic” about the enforcement of a family helmet rule, but say it’s a wise decision, and their sons have never complained. Eliot and Nathaniel wear helmets while biking, skateboarding, using scooters and even ice skating.
“They wear helmets because you’re crazy not to make them wear them, because the most dreadful injury you can have is a head injury,” Roin said. “It’s really easy to take the step – they’re amazingly comfortable, and we just started wearing them a couple years ago, because how can we make our kids wear them if we don’t?”
Putting children in helmets has been a hot-button issue at Aspen ski resorts this winter, in part because of a 6-year-old Florida girl killed at Aspen Highlands after she ran into a tree without protective headgear. Carol Hawk, mother of two small children in Basalt, is interested in making helmets mandatory for children.
Levmore and Roin are both law professors at Chicago University, and Levmore said he has mixed feelings about the proposal of a helmet law.
“On one side, we have an incredible investment in our kids, and we ask parents to live in safe houses with fire alarms. A helmet law is not crazy,” he said. “But I don’t think the solution to everything in life is the law. We don’t need a law to make kids eat their vegetables, but it would be nice if parents told their kids to eat their vegetables.”
Roin, however, said the one concern she has for children on the slopes is that children’s skis are made as “downscaled versions of adult skis,” which have gotten faster and more efficient in the past few years.
“They’re a joy to ski on, but I think it’s crazy to have 6-year-old kids on skis that in 20 feet, maybe less, can obtain speeds of 20 mph,” she said. “When I started skiing as a small kid I was on wooden skis. I’d never go back to that, but surely there’s something in between they could make and rent out for kids who are learning how to ski.”