Safe Except in Case of Human Error

I love Bricker's Hill. Whenever I can I take my two oldest kids there to sled. It's a hill that the local dentist lets everyone in the small town of Antwerp sled on. Dr. Bricker has cleared a lengthy areas of trees on the best sledding hill in town and allows the community to enjoy it. However, a lot of legs and arms get broken at Bricker's Hill every year because some of the kids stray from the proper sledding places and decide to sled down down steep inclines that go through the woods.

The one path, that we called the Demon Drop when we were kids, is probably a 70 degree steep slope. It's insane. And at one point, all you have is about five feet of clearance between the trees. If you make a mistake one way or the other, broken bones become a good possibility for you. I think I only had the courage, or should I say stupidity, to go down it three times in my childhood.

Sadly, the safety at the luge track appears to be about as safe as the locally discovered Demon Drop, but instead of a tree and a kid going 50 mph, they have a steel pole and you get to smash into it going 90 mph. The AP reported on the story. I find the probe findings to be ridiculous.
The International Luge Federation and Vancouver Olympic officials said their investigation showed that the crash was the result of human error and that “there was no indication that the accident was caused by deficiencies in the track.”

In a joint statement they said Kumaritashvili was late coming out of the next-to-last turn and failed to compensate. “This resulted in a late entrance into curve 16 and although the athlete worked to correct the problem, he eventually lost control of the sled, resulting in the tragic accident.”

In effect, they are saying that if the athlete cannot correct the problem, the steel pole that is about five feet away is not a deficiency in the track; it's just a consequence of his inability to correct his problems going into curve 16. Shameful! The key to safety is to have it be safe when there is "human error."

From another AP story on the accident:

"I think they are pushing it a little too much," Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg said Thursday night after she nearly lost control in training. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives."

I don't think it is any accomplishment to build the fastest track ever if people die from hitting steel poles when they crash going down it. True, I like to see Olympians pushed to the limit of their physical abilities, but that should not mean they die if they fail.

I did not post the photo of the crash here, but if you want to see a picture of how close the steel pole is to the track, it is the second from the top photo here. Beware, the photos below it get graphic.

I guess they are right in saying that the track did not cause the Nodar Kumaritashvili's death. It wasn't a monster out of a scary movie that ate him up. But the lack of foresight and the placement of steel poles did seem to result in his death when he made a mistake.