Neglect claimed in death of ski-cross racer

Predrag Zoricic, father of ski-cross racer Nik Zoricic, speaks about his son's death with his wife...

Predrag Zoricic, father of ski-cross racer Nik Zoricic, speaks about his son's death with his wife and daughter at the offices of lawyer Tim Danson in Toronto on Wednesday, April 25, 2012. (Dave Abel/QMI Agency)

TERRY DAVIDSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:31 PM ET

TORONTO - The family of Canadian ski-cross racer Nik Zoricic is demanding an independent investigation into what they call his "avoidable" death during a race in Switzerland last month.

Zoricic's father, Predrag (Bebe) Zoricic, mother Silvia Brudar and sister Katarina claim that a flawed course led to the tragedy. They joined lawyer Tim Danson on Wednesday to call for Alpine Canada and the Swiss-based International Ski Federation to "commit to a collaborative "process" that will "objectively evaluate" what went wrong when Zoricic crashed and died after making a jump in his run toward the finish line.

The family, who are also calling on support from the Swiss authorities and Sport Canada, claims they have not been approached or consulted by anyone as to any investigation already launched or planned into Zoricic's death, nor have they yet received from Switzerland a cause-of-death report.

As for a lawsuit, Danson said the family is taking that legal option off the table in hopes it will help launch an investigation. He did not, however, rule out the possibility of one in the future should investigative action not be taken.

Zoricic, 29, was killed as he approached the finish line during a World Cup race in Grindelwald, Switzerland, on March 10.

After flying off the jump, Zoricic veered to his right, fell while out of bounds, crashed into the fencing that borders the course, and then hit what appears to be a small snowbank before being thrown in the air and landing in a lifeless heap.

The family is alleging that several flaws in the course toward that finish line are what caused Zoricic's death: an improperly-placed jump that drove skiers too far to the right, improper fencing that did not absorb Zoricic's fall, rough and ungroomed snow on the far right side of the course that snagged the front of the racer's skis, and an exposed embankment of snow that Zoricic was driven into - possibly fatally.

"The level of negligence and incompetence here is so extreme it cannot just be swept under the carpet," said Danson, who called it "multiple examples of negligence" and not a "freak accident."

The family and Danson are said they have been approached by four sources who claim Swiss ski authorities had been warned about safety issues with the course prior to Zoricic's race, but are fearful of coming forward publicly because of potential damage to their careers.

Zoricic's father, a long-time ski coach, also said several other skiers had spoken to him about their concerns around the course after his son's death.

"A lot of athletes came to me, they were wondering why this happened," said Bebe Zoricic. "But they don't want to say anything because they fear (for their personal lives and careers)."

Zoricic's mother, Silvia, said the idea that her son's death was avoidable made dealing with it unbearable.

"Every cell in my body hurts," she said. "But knowing this could have been avoided, it makes it into agony."

terry.davidson@sunmedia.ca


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