Family says Zoricic's death was 'entirely avoidable'
Matthew Coutts, CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, April 25, 2012 7:58PM EDT
The grieving family of Nik Zoricic called the Canadian skicross racer's death "entirely avoidable" on Wednesday, demanding a full investigation into the safety measures taken at the Swiss ski hill where he was killed last month.
"Knowing this could have been absolutely prevented makes this so much more painful and hurtful," mother Silvia Brudar told a press conference on Wednesday. "Every cell in my body hurts, but knowing this could have been avoided makes it agony."
Zoricic, a 29-year-old experienced skier from Toronto, suffered severe head injuries and died when he smashed into a safety net at the side of a skicross course in Grindelwald, Switzerland on March 10.
The crash occurred during the final jump of the race, when Zoricic fell into safety netting and landed wide of the finish line.
The family demanded on Wednesday that Alpine Canada and the International Ski Federation launch a complete investigation into the circumstances behind Zoricic's death.
"The level of negligence and incompetence here is so extreme that this cannot be swept under the carpet," said family lawyer Timothy Danson, of the firm Danson Recht LLP. "We hope that the public, not just in Canada but all across the ski world, demand that this be properly investigated."
In a statement on Wednesday, Alpine Canada said an investigation is currently being conducted by Swiss police and state authorities, and they planned to review the findings of that investigation.
"Alpine Canada is also working with the International Ski Federation (FIS) to try to prevent similar accidents from happening in the future and will actively participate in the FIS ski cross advisory group which includes alpine-skiing specialists and snowboard experts," the statement read.
‘This was no freak accident'
Alpine Canada has previously said Zoricic's crash was a "freak accident" and that there was no reason to believe that the skicross race is unsafe.
"This was no freak accident. The finish line of the World Cup event was a death trap," said Danson on Wednesday.
"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.
"All right-thinking people would certainly agree that if you miss the finish line by a few feet, the result should be disqualification, not death."
With Zoricic's mother, father and sister at his side, Danson combed through footage of the crash during Wednesday's press conference and outlined what he described as "incomprehensible and stunning negligence."
He said safety measures were lacking along the finish line, leaving skiers who flew wide off the final jump facing treacherous conditions, including ungroomed snow, improper fencing and a packed snowbank, which Zoricic crashed into before collapsing.
Zoricic's family said they were not planning to take legal action, saying that by addressing the real cause of his death they hoped to avoid similar incidents in the future.
Danson says he has received tips that authorities were warned that the course was not safe. He said by taking the threat of litigation off the table, he hoped those involved would feel comfortable coming forward.
"We need everyone involved to come forward and speak honestly and frankly, so that such a tragic outcome will not happen again in the future," he said. "By taking all legal options off the table, people will be able to come forward and speak frankly and honestly without fear of legal reprisal."
In skicross competitions, racers navigate a course of banks and ridges, making various jumps to reach the finish line. Zoricic had raced on the World Cup circuit for more than three years.
His death was a huge blow to Canada's professional skiing community, already reeling from the loss of another young star, Sarah Burke.
Burke, also 29, died in January after crashing during a freestyle skiing training run in Utah.
In a written statement released shortly after Zoricic's death, his father said: "Nik loved what he did. Ski racing was his life and he enjoyed every moment of it."