Two teens were injured, one fatally, in separate sledding accidents on the same Ohio hill, both families said Saturday.
Natalie Wilson, 17, has been hospitalized since Sunday night after she crashed on the Hinckley Reservation in Medina County, her father, Jim Wilson, said. She was partially paralyzed after fracturing her T5 and T6 spinal vertebrae, severely damaging her spinal cord and fracturing six ribs.
Wilson said in a telephone interview that his daughter and a friend “were taking one last trip down the hill before going home” when their sled veered off course toward a line of trees.
He said his family has visited the park “many, many times” and that it was the second time his daughter was there this year.
“That’s where we go when we want to go sledding,” he said.
According to Wilson, the hill can sometimes freeze over, causing the sleds to go very fast. He said that’s what happened the day of his daughter’s accident.
“They were both on the sled,” he said. “So what basically happened is that they went out of control towards the base of the hill. Her friend was thrown off her … and my daughter probably hit a tree.”
Wilson said she received a call from her daughter shortly before 9:30 pm, telling her that she had been injured.
They took her to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, according to a GoFundMe page created to help with medical expenses. The account has raised over $ 16,000.
Jim Wilson said his daughter will most likely remain hospitalized for at least the next few weeks, but that she is making slow progress.
“Natalie felt her legs tingle and the doctor felt a slight movement in her toes!” wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “Praise God almighty. I’m going to get ‘tingly’ right now !!! I needed this right now how you wouldn’t believe it.”
The day before Natalie’s accident, Eirelyn Zuercher, 14, was involved in an accident on the same hill. She was placed on life support on February 20 after suffering “a damaging brain injury,” her mother said in a Facebook post.
“Eirelyn is currently on life support to sustain life long enough to find organ donor recipients. I was told this could take up to three days,” wrote Katie Dougherty Zuercher. “Waiting for the inevitable end is emotional and exhausting, but I hope that a few terrible days for my family will mean a better future for other families who will benefit from their healthy organs.”
Eirelyn was taken off life support Wednesday night and died of her injuries. Her mother said she was able to donate organs to five people.
To add to the family tragedy, Eirelyn’s father suffered a massive heart attack the day she was hospitalized from which she did not recover.
“Her dad got to heaven just before her, just like he got to the finish line first in every Mario Kart game they played together. She used to wait on the front porch for him to get home from work to greet him with The biggest hug before she could get into the house. I imagine he’s waiting for her just as much now, “wrote Dougherty Zuercher.
Dougherty Zuercher could not be immediately reached on Saturday.
Wilson said she initially shared her story to bring updates on her daughter to family and friends and that she never expected great support from strangers.
Now he hopes the Hinckley Reservation will upgrade their hill and put up barriers that will keep the sleds from veering off the sides.
Cleveland Metroparks, which operates the reservation, and the Hinckley Township Police Department could not be reached on Saturday.
Park officials told the Akron Beacon Journal in a statement: “Our thoughts are with the families affected by the sledding incidents that occurred over the weekend. We are investigating the incidents and circumstances surrounding these tragic events.”