Á mon Beyrouth…
I am a proud mother of 3. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister. I am a sports addict and I do my best to pass my passion for sports onto my children.Today, I am a mother who is in shock after what happened to her son on the slopes of Faraya Mzaar. Today, I am a citizen calling for change.
Adel is my eldest child, he is 9 years old and has been skiing for 5 years. Like all other parents, we take every single detail in consideration when sending our kids to ski.Adel wears a helmet to protect himself, he wears 4 layers of clothes to protect him from the wind and cold; but most of all, Adel only skis with my husband & I, or with the official ski school of Faraya Mzaar.
If anything were to happen to him, it would be because he didn’t ski well, or because, God forbid, someone bumped into him on the slopes. At least, this is what we thought.
On Saturday January 26th 2013, Adel was involved in a life-threatening incident that left all the onlookers frozen in shock, and left him traumatized by his ordeal.
Adel was on the “Refuge” slope ski lift, on his own. For starters, in no case and under no circumstances should a 9-year old child be ever allowed to ride a ski lift on his own.
As any skier would do, Adel had lowered the safety bar and was waiting to reach the top of the “Refuge” terminal to catch up with the rest of his skiing group – some were in the lifts in front of him, and others (including his instructor) were behind him.
Upon reaching the “Refuge” terminal, Adel was unable to lift the safety bar – the wind was blowing in gusts and was resisting his efforts. He started screaming in panic, hoping the lift controller notices him and stops the ski lift. To Adel’s bad luck, the controller did not stop the ski lift; he either did not pay attention to him!! Or decided to ignore the distress screams and assumed the screaming child would eventually manage to raise the bar.
Right as he arrived to the terminal, Adel eventually pulled the bar upwards…but a strong wind gust slammed the bar violently and made Adel loose his balance and fall off the lift. His 4 layers of clothes got tangled on the foot bar and he was now being dragged along with the lift upwards screaming towards the “Mzaar” slopes..and still, the lifts were going full speed. People were shouting, Adel was screaming… until the ski lift suddenly stopped.
If you’re familiar with this part of the slopes, you probably figured out where Adel was exactly. If you’re not, I will just describe the nightmare in one sentence:
“Adel was now hanging by the tip of his clothes with one of his hands holding on for life and below him was a drop of at least 12 meters”.
The lifts do not reverse; they could not bring him back. The only way was either forwards or downwards.
A helpful man who spotted him (and who we are very grateful to) kept talking to Adel, calming him down guiding him to unmount his skis and throw his poles while he was dangling. Adel, was now effectively hanging for his life.
At this stage, no safety procedures, no emergency response. No rescuers or Red Cross were in sight, and certainly no initiative being taken by anyone employed by Faraya Mzaar.
My son was hanging in mid-air, with 25km/hr winds gusting and with no one equipped enough to save him, no net or anything to ensure a soft landing; but many onlookers standing there in shock and the friendly man who stood helplessly underneath Adel.
In sight of all this, the man beneath asked Adel to try and untangle himself and let go, promising to catch him but Adel wasn’t letting go.
Some minutes later, the drama took another twist when a hero made an appearance to save our son.
One of Faraya Mzaar’s controllers (on his 3rd day on the job) working in the nearby button-lift (tire-fesses) took initiative. He stopped his station and ran across to the ski lifts.
This man, Ammar, reached the nearest pole to Adel’s lift and climbed-up. He then used his bare hands to dangle his body from the cable and made his way across 10 meters to reach Adel’s chair. He pulled Adel back up onto the chair and back to safety.This man saved our son and if it weren’t for him, we cannot imagine what could have happened if he hadn’t.
This man might not be there next time this happens to another child.
Another child might not be wearing 4 layers of clothes to hold his weight while he is dangling in mid-air.
Another child, or another adult for that matter, might not have been able to stay calm that long.
A child might die on the slopes because of the blatant failure of Faraya Mzaar to provide basic safety measures to all skiers, of all ages.
In light of all this, my husband and I have decided to write this appeal and demand change.
An appeal for all of us to mobilize and ask Faraya Mzaar to inform us of the measures they will be taking to prevent such life-threatening accidents to happen to anyone.
Why are there no basic security measures on a terminal?
Why was the lift controller not alert enough to anticipate and react?
Was he trained well enough as to the implications of being a ski lift controller? Why did it take so long to stop the lift?
Why are their no medics, rescuers or safety personnel on a terminal in case of emergency?
What if our son, or anyone’s child for that matter, fell off this chair?
Why was a 9 year old allowed on a lift on his own?
Why was the red cross not notified of the incident to have an ambulance ready in the event our son had fell off?
Why has no one from Faraya Mzaar contacted us yet?
So many questions, yet so little answers. All we know is that the lift controller was fired, and that Ammar, the hero who saved our son, was a Faraya Mzaar employee. As far as they are concerned, they probably think they got away with this.
We are all skiers, but we all care about safety first; and if Adel was able to come out from this with just trauma and an unbelievable story to tell his friends; we know how lucky he was.
That said, we are asking all those who are directly, or indirectly, affected by this story to sign a petition urging Faraya Mzaar to stop taking their Customers for granted and start providing them with the basic safety requirements.
If you are a skier, if you are sending your children skiing in Faraya Mzaar (with or without their ski school) and if you are using any of Faraya Mzaar’s facilities, you must take part in this petition.
From our experience, the way this shocking accident happened is a disgrace to safety and Faraya Mzaar’s staff is untrained and unequipped to handle a situation like this. It is also shocking that with the hefty price tags that everything comes with in Faraya Mzaar (from a ski pass to a simple bottle of a water), they are still unable to invest some funds and provide the basic safety needs for their Customers.
We hope this appeal will mobilize everyone and allow us to pressure Faraya Mzaar in finding solutions and communicating them publicly to all their Customers.
At the same time, this appeal is also our chance to publicly thank a hero named Ammar, who risked his life to save our son’s life.
Thank you Ammar. Adel, his sisters and his parents, will forever be indebted to you for your heroic act.
Diala Kassem Sammakieh
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