Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Family Blames Skicrosser's Death on 'Stunning Negligence' in Course Design: Negligence to Blame for Skier's Death: Family

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Family Blames Skicrosser's Death on 'Stunning Negligence' in Course Design: Negligence to Blame for Skier's Death: Family

Article excerpt

TORONTO - Stunning negligence in course design and safety features led to the "entirely avoidable" death of a Canadian skicross racer at a World Cup event in Switzerland last month, his family argued Wednesday.

In calling for a thorough, independent inquiry into the death of Nik Zoricic, his family disputed the official position that he was killed in a "freak" accident.

"The finish line was a death trap," family lawyer Tim Danson said.

"It is unacceptable that an elite athlete like Nik Zoricic can make a perfect landing, barely miss the finish line by one metre, and be killed for it."

Citing four reliable sources, Danson alleged that race authorities had been warned beforehand that the course was unsafe. No one did anything, he said.

"These concerns were apparently ignored," Danson said. "As a result, Nik is dead."

In skicross, several racers hurtle down a mountain at the same time, making jumps and taking slight curves on the way.

Zoricic, 29, who grew up in Toronto, had raced on the World Cup circuit for more than three years and was competing in his 36th event in Grindelwald. He was killed at the finish line of a tight three-way race.

A frame-by-frame video shows he was doing about 80 or 90 km/h when he veered to the right after the final jump. He appeared to nail his landing about a metre to the right of the official course line.

However, he touched down in a what skiers call "crud" just off the course rather than on a groomed shoulder, snagged safety netting, and tumbled into hard-packed snow, smashing his head.

His father Bebe Zoricic, a veteran ski coach, said the poor design of the finish steered skiers to the right, the safety netting was of the wrong type, there was no "spill zone" and the mound of cement-like snow should not have been there.

The family said it had no plans for legal action provided a proper inquiry is done, saying the aim is to avoid a repeat of the tragedy.

"It is devastating to look at this," the racer's mother Silvia Zoricic said. "Every cell in my body hurts, but knowing that this could have been avoided makes it into an agony. …

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