Metroparks investigating following two severe Hinckley Hill sledding accidents this weekend

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HINCKLEY TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) — “It’s the phone call that no parent wants to hear, she’s screaming frantically, ‘I can’t feel my legs I can’t feel my legs,'” recalled Jim Wilson.

What started out as a fun Sunday night of sledding for his 17-year-old daughter Natalie, a friend and her siblings quickly took a turn for the worst.

“They were laughing the whole way down and the sled went off, it spun out and went off the side of the hill,” he said. “I believe she hit one of the trees right off the side of the slope.”

Jim rushed from home to Hinckley Hill in the Cleveland Metroparks‘ Hinckley Reservation.

The Hinckley Fire Chief Jestin Grossenbaugh tells us his crews responded to a call of a leg injury and took her to MetroHealth Medical Center, unfortunately, the diagnosis was worse.

“She basically completely broke those vertebrae and did some serious damage to the spinal cord,” said Jim.

Natalie Wilson (Photo courtesy Wilson family)

Grossenbaugh says Natalie’s accident wasn’t the only one they had to respond to this past weekend at the sledding area. On Saturday evening, they were called to another severe injury: “A 14-year-old girl on the sledding hill that had a tree branch stuck in her eye,” Grossenbaugh said.

He says the types of injuries they normally see are things like broken legs, concussions, and scrapes. 

“In my 24 years we’ve had numerous calls here, but nothing as serious as these two calls,” Grossenbaugh said.

When we met up with Jim on Tuesday, the hill was still open to sledders. 

“I think it should be closed, at least temporarily,” he said. “I can’t help but think had it been closed prior to my daughter’s incident that this wouldn’t have happened. And I’m not blaming anyone but there’s obviously something going on here that needs to be investigated.”

Grossenbaugh says that decision is up to the park system.

Metroparks did not tell us if they plan to close the hill or what factors would go into the decision, but they did release this statement:

“Our thoughts are with the families impacted by the sledding incidents that occurred over the weekend. We are looking into the incidents and the circumstances around these tragic events.”

Cleveland Metroparks

Jim suggests a barrier or flag system could help mitigate the risk as his kids said the conditions seemed icier than usual. 

“I think there are some very clear safety measures that can be put in place and honestly if the conditions aren’t such that we can do this safely, we shouldn’t be doing it,” he said.

The family of 12 says they are grateful for the support from the community and are just glad she is alive. 

“Right now they’re saying they don’t have expectations of recovery, but there’s hope and we’re gonna hang onto that hope as tightly as we can,” Jim said.

Jim says there was some hope Tuesday morning when Natalie said she felt tingling in her legs and the doctor felt slight toe movement.

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