Copper cardboard derby victim in rehabilitation
DENVER<Gary Fountain survived a severed aorta, dislocated hip, fractured vertebrae, broken ribs and hours of emergency surgery and is learning to walk again.Fountain, a Dillon property owner and Denver resident, was critically injured Feb. 2 during the 14th annual KBCO-Budweiser Cardboard Derby at Copper Mountain. He spent several weeks in intensive care at St. Anthony’s Central Hospital in Denver. He was discharged March 4 and admitted to Craig Hospital in Englewood for rehabilitation. He currently uses a wheelchair and can speak only in a whisper because his vocal chords were paralyzed, his brother said.”It’s looking like he’ll overcome this<he’s working real hard,” Keith Fountain said. “We’re optimistic he could be home in another month. But everytime something improves, something else comes up.”The five other members of Fountain’s derby team, the Hay Bale Destroyers, also were injured, including broken ankles, concussions and lacerations. Teammate Ken Binfet was hospitalized for a month. Members from other teams suffered injuries as well, according to Copper Mountain clinic staff.Organizers of the event, including Copper Mountain officials and KBCO promotions staff, have expressed sympathy for those injured and their families, but have refused to speculate on the cause of the accidents. The organizers said they discussed the injuries in follow-up meetings and will consider safety measures when deciding whether they will hold the event next year.Despite the injuries suffered at the event, cardboard derbies continue. Copper Mountain held an end-of-season party for employees Thursday night that included a derby. The employee derby was held at the Copper Station base area and everything went smoothly, resort spokesman Ben Friedland said. Steamboat Ski Area is scheduled to hold its 22nd Cardboard Classic today.Steamboat spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer said she wasn’t familiar with the cardboard derby course set-up at Copper Mountain, or when it was held at Arapahoe Basin, but that staff did hear about the injuries. Wiedemer said the injuries didn’t affect organizers’ planning because of the Steamboat event’s history.”To the best of our knowledge, there haven’t been any injuries here,” she said. “A lot of people don’t even get 2 feet down the track. It’s not about speed at all; it’s more about the elaborate craft they build.”Wiedemer said Steamboat’s course for cardboard craft is typically set up on the Headwall trail, a green run. For cardboard sleds that do make it to the bottom of the track, she said riders are stopped by large crash pads, eight rows of ski fencing and a snowbank. Wiedemer said organizers plan the event for the end of the season, when snow conditions are slower and softer.Spectators at the Copper Mountain derby found fault with the steepness of the course<on Rosi’s Run, the bottom of a black trail<and said they thought the runout of the course was too short for the speeds sleds attained. After organizers were alerted to the injuries, they shut down one of the three tracks and added excess padding to the other two. Volunteers also used their feet to kick up the icy crust and slow the slope down.Wiedemer said it’s hard to say what Steamboat organizers would do to the course in the event of an injury, since there haven’t been any.”We have ski patrol there, just like a World Cup event,” she said. “We’d probably look into it. If it could be determined what caused the injury, we’d make changes as necessary.”Lawyers and private investigators are looking into the Copper Mountain injuries. Keith Fountain said he’s not sure if his brother’s family will take legal action, as Gary Fountain is currently focusing on improving his health.”I know that he wants to see that no one else gets hurt,” Keith Fountain said.Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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