Student sustains serious injuries on slopes

Sean Lenihan is seen recouperating shortly after his skiing accident. Photo courtesy of Sean Lenihan. 

Castleton student Sean Lenihan had a brush with death on Jan. 25 after skiing off a trail at Killington and colliding with trees.

The crash resulted in a concussion, facial fractures, broken nose, stitches on both lips, fractured ribs, a bruised lung and a broken scapula.

Lenihan was also going through hypothermia because after crashing into the trees he landed in a bone-chilling creek.  The brutal accident, however, did not stop Lenihan from skiing down to the car while experiencing agonizing pain.

“The idea of not making it out of that hole made me kind of mad and I literally said to myself, with what teeth I had left, ‘Na, today isn’t the day,’” he said recalling the moment.

The day started with Neil Sheehan calling Lenihan with news that Warren Miller had died.

“He changed the skiing industry forever the day he picked up a video camera,” said Lenihan.

In his memory, Dylan Sheehan and Neil Sheehan, who aren’t related, set out with Lenihan to ski that day.

  And the skiing was excellent.  Lenihan said it involved lots of “bombing runs and boosting jumps.” And as the daylight was burnt, so was their energy.  After stopping at the peak lodge for food, water, rest and chit chat, they decided to call it a day and planned on coming back to Castleton.  That’s when Neil said “one more run” and proceeded to bomb it down the mountain one last time.

For those not in the know, saying “one more run” is a no-no on the hill. It often leads to crashes, at least according to some superstitious skiers and riders out there.

While skiing down,  the three friends got separated, and Lenihan went down one of the steepest trails on the Killington mountain, East Fall.

He said he caught some flat light on the trail that made the terrain disappear before his eyes.  Not literally vanish, but it made it impossible for him to see. He slid off the trail, crashing into trees on the way. His skis flew off his feet, and his neon equipment scattered over the crash zone.

Lenihan described the span of time between the fall and the impact as “almost surreal” and “just kind of patiently waited for the crash to end.”     

“I knew it would hurt and I knew it wasn’t going to be good, but there was nothing I could do about it,” he said.

He said he woke up in the creek, drenched with water very aware of how badly hurt he was. He struggled to get himself from the stream. Knowing he had to get shelter soon he gathered the strength to pull himself out and collect his gear.

Once Lenihan made it down to the car, his friends had one objective; get him taken care of medically.

“He came down all banged up,” said Dylan.

“Water was coming out of his boots,” Neil added.

Lenihan’s condition was not an envious one.

When they made it to the hospital, the nurses barraged him with questions to determine the injuries. including asking if he hit a tree.

Dylan said Lenihan looked at the nurse and just said “a few.”

A clear problem, without question, were his facial fractures.

Both Dylan and Neil described his nose as being on the side of his face instead of it’s normal spot.

  Throughout his time at the hospital, the doctors and nurses treating Lenihan claimed what he did was impossible, to be able to ski down the mountain after impact like that.

In the end, Lenihan was treated for his concussion, facial fractures, broken nose, stitches on both lips, fractured ribs, a contused lung and a broken scapula.


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