Fairbanks high school senior dies in snowboarding accident

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Lathrop High School senior died a day after fracturing his skull while snowboarding off a ramp near his home.

Seventeen-year-old Zachary Hansen died Monday afternoon at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

His father, Tom Hansen, said the snow-packed ramp was designed to vault the snowboarder over a nearby road. But it was built with too much lift, so the teen-ager landed on his back -- striking his head on the road.

Hansen wasn't wearing a helmet.

In the aftermath of the accident, the Hansen family has established a memorial fund in their son's name designed to furnish helmets for area snowboarders and skiers. ''Helmets are not fashionable,'' Hansen said.

They also can be expensive.

Hansen hopes the helmets can be loaned out to skiers or snowboarders on a daily basis.

''If they don't come back, fine,'' said Diane Hansen, Zachary's mother.

The Hansens said the fund will be managed by a local credit union, while a local sporting goods store has agreed to find a good line of snowboarding helmets. The next step would be to work with the various ski areas to see if the helmets can be handed out there.

''We'll start little and see where it goes,'' Tom Hansen told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''We don't want to turn this into something political. I think Zach would be happy with that.''

The Hansens said they had convinced Zachary and his younger brother, Tyson, to wear helmets while experimenting with skateboards because cement is unforgiving. But they didn't encourage their sons to wear helmets while snowboarding because they figured snow would cushion their falls, Hansen said.

The snow jump was still standing at the base of a hill late Tuesday. A strip of trees had been cleared for a power line right of way.

The 9-foot-long by 3-foot-tall ramp had been built about 10 feet from the road. A nearby trail showed where snowboarders would glide down the sparsely snow-covered hill for about a 100 feet before reaching the jump.

Neighbors Mary and Dave Nebert first noticed the ramp while taking a walk Sunday morning.

''We were looking at it and I was thinking, 'That doesn't look like a good idea,''' Mary Nebert said.

They plan to tear down the ramp, saying they don't want it to remind the Hansens of the tragedy.

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