Zoricic family blame 'death trap' for tragedy
The finish area of a World Cup ski cross race that claimed the life of Canadian Nik Zoricic has been described as a "death trap" by the skier's family who are demanding an independent investigation into his death.
The family said they will remove any threat of a lawsuit if the International Ski Federation (FIS), Alpine Canada and Swiss police conduct a full investigation into the March 10 death of the 29 year old in Grindelwald, Switzerland.
Zoricic, who raced on the World Cup for over three years and finished eighth at last year's world championships, sustained fatal head injuries after landing wide right off the final jump on the course.
Race authorities have said all safety measures were in place and that Zoricic's death was a simply a freak accident.
But the lawyer representing the Zoricic family dismissed those claims and said the Canadian's death was the result of "incomprehensible and stunning negligence."
"This was no freak accident, the finish line of this World Cup event was a death trap," lawyer Ted Danson told a bank of TV cameras and reporters crammed into his Toronto office.
"It is unacceptable that an elite athlete like Nik Zoricic can make a perfect landing, barely miss the finish line by one metre and be killed for it."
Danson backed up his arguments with a painful frame-by-frame breakdown of the accident and final seconds of Zoricic's life as the skier's father, mother and sister watched quietly.
As Zoricic launched off the final jump, Danson described a stage set for disaster that he said had improper fencing around a finish area that was not properly groomed and a large cement-hard snow pile just inside the finish line.
"We want this matter to be investigated independently so the errors can be identified and changes to the system can be made and future racers will be much, much safer," said Danson.
"We are taking all legal options off the table. That means no lawsuits. All you have to do for FIS, Alpine Canada and the authorities is to agree to a truly independent investigation."
The Zoricic family are hoping to apply pressure to FIS and Swiss officials by going public with their concerns as they seek answers to their son's death.
Danson did not rule out the possibility of legal action if they do not receive the cooperation they seek.
FIS said in a statement issued on Wednesday that an official investigation into Zoricic's accident is being undertaken by the Swiss police and state authorities. A preliminary timeline will be assessed in late May or early June.
"It is the goal of FIS to try to prevent similar accidents occurring in the future and considerable work is being undertaken through the Injury Surveillance System," said FIS.
The grief remains fresh for the Zoricics, who have still not buried their son as they await a report stating the official cause of death.
The Zoricics say they have been given the runaround by Swiss authorities and ignored by FIS, who they say have not even offered their condolences for Nik's death.
"Other than making statements that this is a freak accident they (FIS) have not come forward, not even at a human level to say, 'hey we're sorry your son died,'" said Zoricic's mother Silvia. "Nothing, silence. That silence hurts, deeply, deeply hurts.