The North Vancouver RCMP is seeking information about an incident at Grouse Mountain over spring break that has left a 13-year-old boy with a traumatic brain injury.
The teen was skiing with a friend on March 30 when, just before 7 p.m., he swerved to avoid another skier, believed to be an adult male of unknown age.
The man allegedly struck the youth in his head with his ski pole with such force that the tip of the pole punctured the boy’s skull and penetrated his brain, according to Sgt. Peter DeVries, who spoke at a May 22 press conference.
The boy’s father was also at the media gathering, pleading for anyone with information to contact the RCMP and asking the man involved to come forward.
The man was described only as wearing a yellow ski jacket.
The boy, Max Keir, was skiing on the bottom third of “the Cut”, to the left (east) of the Screaming Eagle chairlift. People sitting on the chairlift would have been able to see him below and to the right.
After being struck in the head, the youth, who was not wearing a helmet at the time of the incident, didn’t initially realize he had been hurt. He skied to the bottom of the run, where his friend noticed a significant amount of blood on his face. A woman nearby also saw that the boy was bleeding and offered some tissue.
The RCMP is requesting that the unidentified woman who helped the youth get in contact.
The boy's father, David Keir, said that once he and his wife picked Max up from the mountain, they took him to Lions Gate Hospital, where he was treated for what was believed to be a laceration and sent home. There, his symptoms worsened. He was confused and agitated and began vomiting repeatedly, so the family went back to Lions Gate, where Max had a CT scan.
The results shocked the family.
“The CT scan revealed a bullet-sized hole in his skull,” an emotional Keir said. “It went through his skin, it went through the fascia that’s on top of the bone, it went right through the temporal bone, which is a big, thick part of the skull. It went through the membranes that protect the brain, and it went into the right temporal lobe of his brain to a distance of about three centimetres.”
There was also evidence of a pool of blood in the boy’s brain.
Max was transported via ambulance to BC Children’s Hospital, where a neurosurgery team was standing by in case he needed emergency brain surgery to save his life. He didn’t, but he spent four days in intensive care.
Now, Max can only go to school for an hour or two a day; the return to sport and play could take 9 to 12 months or more. Although the outcome of brain injuries is impossible to predict, the family is hopeful he will make a full recovery.
The right temporal lobe of the brain is responsible for things like memory, recall, sequencing, and information processing and is connected with the vestibular apparatus, which impacts balance and motor control.
“There are some cognitive challenges that we’re working through,” Keir said. “There are physical challenges as well, things like headaches, et cetera; proprioception, motor control, things that take some time to get back.”
Chances are the individual involved isn’t aware of the extent of the boy’s injuries.
Max Keir was wearing tan/brown ski pants, a white Adidas hoodie with a black logo on the front, and green and black ski boots.
His father described him as quiet, courteous, and respectful, a "good kid"—not the kind of teenager who would be "flipping off folks while they ski".
It is not known whether the unidentified man’s actions were intentional or accidental.
“It’s difficult to speculate; all I can describe is what Max described to us, that he was skiing at speed; he’s a strong skier," Keir said. "They came together, he [Max] veered away because he felt the guy was skiing erratically. The guy cut in front of him and thrust a pole with sufficient force to go all the way through his skull into his brain. I’m not going to speculate about whether that was accidental or whether that was intentional. The medical evidence might point the needle in a certain direction."
Keir is hoping the individual involved will “do the right thing” and come forward.
“As a parent you have to be able to look your kids in the eyes and say ‘We’ve done everything we can to try and make this right',” Keir said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the RCMP at 604-969-7561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.