Sledder injured during snow safety event at Tibble Fork Reservoir

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CEDAR HILLS — For many people, winters in Utah equals getting out in the snow.

Natalee Wells, who lives in Alpine, knows the perfect spot. She likes going to Tibble Fork Reservoir up American Fork Canyon.

"I've been sledding my whole life," she said. "Always got to find the steepest hill."

However, her fun ended in an area known as the bowl when she hit a boulder last year. She sustained a number of injuries, including four broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and a fractured skill. Wells spent nearly a week in the hospital.

"I don't remember the accident and I don't remember the few days following it," Wells said.

Her story is becoming more common.

That's why Wells was part of a group of medical workers and first responders at Tibble Fork on Saturday afternoon. They wanted to raise awareness about safety and encourage sledders to wear a helmet.

"And when kids go off that bowl, they can get hit really hard on the ground. It's like jumping off a house roof, pretty much," said Dr. Darin Willardson with Intermountain Healthcare.

Doctors with Intermountain Healthcare say they're seeing an increase in the number of serious sledding accidents at their hospitals.

At Primary Children's Hospital, doctors say the number of kids coming in with head injuries has doubled in the past year.

While giving out information and free helmets, though, there was a serious sledding incident at the bowl.

Ashleigh Neider saw it happen, and since she has training as a nurse's assistant, she ran to help.

"He hit the ground a couple of times and knocked himself out," Neider said. "I instantly went up and his head was bleeding, so my friend took off his sweatshirt and I just held his head as he was bleeding and kept him comfortable."

A medical helicopter was called to fly the teenager out.

"It was just one of those accidents that he could've been wearing a helmet and just take different safety precautions and know what you're up against when you're coming down the hill," said Brandt Godwin with the Lone Peak Fire Department.

Doctors say it's just the latest example of the increase they're seeing with serious sledding injuries and people not wearing helmets. Just like Wells.

"I've been really lucky and haven't had any long-term effects," she said. "But still have a good time; you know, sledding, you're meant to have fun, but make sure we do it in a safe way."

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Alex Cabrero
Alex Cabrero is an Emmy award-winning journalist and reporter for KSL-TV since 2004. He covers various topics and events but particularly enjoys sharing stories that show what's good in the world.


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