Unusual ski accident occurs on chair liftHASTINGS, Minn. — It wasn’t the sort of skiing accident Dani Truax ever expected to have. A junior at Hastings High School, she has been skiing on the Welch Village Developmental ski team since she was in third grade. On Feb. 11, she was with her team at the Coffee Mill Ski Area in Wabasha for a competition. Her accident didn’t happen on the slopes, though. It happened above them.
By: Katrina Styx, The Dickinson Press
HASTINGS, Minn. — It wasn’t the sort of skiing accident Dani Truax ever expected to have. A junior at Hastings High School, she has been skiing on the Welch Village Developmental ski team since she was in third grade. On Feb. 11, she was with her team at the Coffee Mill Ski Area in Wabasha for a competition. Her accident didn’t happen on the slopes, though. It happened above them.
Truax was riding up the chair lift, getting herself ready for a test run before her next competitive ski event, and she had a couple solid runs already under her belt.
“We had done our slalom runs and I was doing great,” she said.
She and a 10-year-old teammate were sharing a lift and chatting on the way up when she heard a scream and a sort of whirring noise ahead of her.
“I look up and this chair is coming at me,” she recalled.
The chair lift in front of hers had broken loose somehow and slid down the cable into the chair Truax was in. There wasn’t much time to react — Truax put her arm across her teammate to make sure he stayed in the chair, closed her eyes and let the runaway chair slam into her.
The forward chair broke loose of the cable after that and fell to the ground, but Truax and her teammate kept riding to the top of the hill. Her nose was bleeding profusely from what she would later find out was a fracture of her maxillary bone, so she was trying to keep her head hanging forward while still holding her teammate in the chair. He wanted to jump off, she said.
When they did reach the top of the hill, operators stopped the lift to get them to the ground. The drop then was only about four feet, but she couldn’t jump down because she didn’t know what condition her knee was in. Responders lifted her down and put her on a toboggan and raced her down to the bottom of the hill to a waiting ambulance. Along the way, she could see the gathering around where the other chair had fallen. One of those in that chair had been another of her teammates.
Truax’s parents were in the chalet when the accident happened, and at first all they knew was that something had gone wrong with the chair lift. Then one of the ski coaches came running in and yelled for them to come outside, Truax’s mother, Mary Truax, said. When they got outside, they found their daughter in the sled waving her arms and talking, blood everywhere. The sight, although not a pleasant one, was a relief to Mary Truax.
“When I saw her, I saw she was going to be okay,” she said, adding that the injuries weren’t as serious as they could have been.
Truax was taken by ambulance to St. Elizabeth Hospital. It wasn’t until she got there that she ever noticed the pain from her injuries.
“I never cried,” she said. “It never hurt to the point that I wanted to cry.”
Instead, she was scared for her teammate, she said.
“My buddy was on the chair in front of me and I didn’t know how he was.”
Treatment and recovery
So far, Truax’s recovery has gone well.
“She’s doing well, and that’s all you can pray for,” Mary Truax said.
Truax still doesn’t know the extent of the damage to her knee. It had swollen to about the size of a softball and was too swollen to do an MRI. She has a doctor’s appointment Feb. 29 to have it looked at again.
Getting around has been frustrating. While her injured knee will still support her walking on it, it doesn’t take much activity to make it start hurting. Truax said she tries to keep at least one of her crutches with her all the time, but it’s made even some of the most basic tasks much more involved. Getting herself a bowl of cereal, for example, took her about 20 minutes.
“It bothers me that I can’t be my independent self,” she said.
The injuries have kept her out of school four and a half days, and her friends have made a huge effort to give her the interaction she would otherwise miss by sitting at home all week.
“All my friends have been super supportive,” she said.
It’s been hard for her mother to see her so restricted, Mary Truax said, but she’s also impressed with her daughter’s strength.
“She’s been very brave through the whole process,” she said.
“For a 16-year-old girl who broke her nose, that doesn’t even bother her.”
Styx is a reporter for the Hastings (Minn.) Star Gazette, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.