Suit filed over boy’s death at skatepark
April 22, 2002
The parents of a boy killed at the Mount Sopris SK8 Park in El Jebel last summer filed a lawsuit in Eagle County District Court on Friday.
The suit, filed by Carbondale residents Steve and Cathy Close, names the county and two men with alleged ties to the park as defendants. It says that the accident that killed 10-year-old Jamie Close on June 23, 2001, “was caused by the defendants’ failure to properly maintain and supervise a crude skateboarding park in an abandoned facility owned by the county.”
Carbondale residents Royal Laybourn and Herb Weisbard are liable for Close’s death, the lawsuit states, since the men entered an agreement with Eagle County to operate and maintain the skatepark. The facility, which has been closed since the accident, is in two empty storage buildings at the Mount Sopris Tree Farm.
“Under Colorado law, a property owner may not delegate to another person or entity its duty to maintain the property in a reasonable and safe manner,” states a press release circulated by the Close family’s attorney, Joseph Bennett of Colorado Springs. “The suit alleges that Laybourn and Weisbard are responsible by virtue of their agreement with the county to maintain and supervise the property.”
According to Bennett’s press release, Laybourn and Weisbard “formed an entity called the Mt. Sopris Skateboard Association” to run the skatepark.
“The lawsuit alleges that the county is responsible for Jamie’s death by virtue of its status as owner of the property,” the release continues.
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Jamie Close died when a heavy steel rail used for a number of skateboarding tricks toppled onto him. Investigators determined that Close was walking beneath or beside the rail when he apparently hit his head, fell and pulled it onto him. The rail struck the boy’s head again when it fell.
“The steel bar was not professionally designed or manufactured and was unsteady and unstable,” the lawsuit states.
Eagle County Coroner Jim Stryker said the weight of the steel rail apparently caused a skull fracture. Though the rail’s weight was never determined by investigators – the lawsuit alleges the beam weighed 200 pounds – it took three members of the Basalt fire department to remove it from the park.
Close had not been skateboarding on the day of the accident, but was visiting the park with some friends and his younger brother, Jeffrey, 7. The lawsuit “is also brought on behalf of the Closes’ surviving son … for emotional damages he suffered from witnessing his brother’s death.”
Bennett was not available for comment over the weekend. Phone calls to Laybourn, Weisbard and Eagle County Manager Jack Ingstad were not immediately returned.
A deputy with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said officers frequently patrol the tree farm property to ensure that children are not using the skatepark facilities.