Tragic death shouldn’t be in vain, says father

Paul Amann didn't think twice when his wife was late coming home last Wednesday. Tara Hicks had taken their kids to a play date with some friends in Watson Lake. Then a truck pulled into the family's yard.

Paul Amann didn’t think twice when his wife was late coming home last Wednesday.

Tara Hicks had taken their kids to a play date with some friends in Watson Lake.

Then a truck pulled into the family’s yard. The driver screamed at Amann to get in.

On the way to the town’s hospital, Amann assumed it was his youngest child, Parker.

The little boy is “crazy about bikes,” just like the rest of the family.

Amann is a BMXer, and his two young children have pedalled in his tire tracks since they could balance on training wheels.

Amann was prepared for a bike injury, but no parent can be prepared for what he was about to find out.

While playing with the other children on the town’s high school soccer field, Amann and Hicks’ oldest child, five-year-old Jaedyn, was hit on the back of the head by one of the soccer nets when it tumbled to the ground.

“The moms were sitting on a bench within 30 feet of the kids on the field,” Amann recounted. “The kids ended up playing by the soccer net because, you know how kids are, it was like a fort.”

None of the children were hanging off the net, Amann said.

“They’re only three and five,” he said. “No one was climbing the net. These are just little kids.”

The school’s soccer goals have hinged designs, allowing them to be collapsed and easily moved.

That afternoon, one of the children bumped one of the posts of the net and the 80-kilogram frame toppled over.

“The whole thing just opened up and collapsed, falling forward,” said Amann. “As my daughter was crawling away, it struck her in the back of the neck.

“My wife and the eight-month pregnant lady had to go up to Jaedyn and physically lift the bar off her head. Tara turned her over gently and noticed blood coming out of her nose. Tara knew instantly, she said her eyes rolled back in her head and she was gurgling. She knew instantly that it was very, very severe.”

A passerby rushed Tara and Jaedyn to the hospital, then picked up Amann from his house.

At the hospital, a father-daughter doctor team worked on Jaedyn for three hours, said Amann.

“I think they probably knew in the first hour that it was in vain,” he said. “They kept CPR going for about two hours.

“It’s bizarre, now that I think about it, but here’s me and my wife, it was like we were on the sidelines of the sports field just cheering her on, ‘C’mon J, c’mon.’

“We’re there, cheering her on, just thinking maybe something in her brain will hear us and maybe that little heartbeat will pick up again. It was like three hours of that. Just hoping for that little spark.”

Jaedyn was pronounced dead at 8 p.m.

It was an accident, but it could have been prevented, said Amann.

As a contractor, he’s expected to conduct regular inspections of his equipment. Amann wants the Department of Education to do the same, with quarterly inspections of all playground equipment to ensure any possible vandalism, rough play or general wear-and-tear doesn’t compromise safety.

“I see major neglect on behalf of the government in their own backyard,” he said. “Our daughter went to a sports field and didn’t come home.”

He also wants an investigation to publicly show how easily these specific nets fall over.

The Department of Education won’t say when the soccer nets at the Watson Lake school were last inspected. That information is a part of the ongoing RCMP and coroner investigation, said spokesman Chris Madden.

By Tuesday, all 70 movable nets in fields across the territory were removed and are being assessed for safety, Madden added.

But those nets should have never been put out there – at least not without being properly locked and pinned, said Amann.

Parents should be able to assume equipment in a public park is safe, he said.

The community support, both in Watson Lake and the family’s winter home in B.C., has been “unreal,” said Amann. Losing Jaedyn, who the family describes as “spunky,”“very loving,” and “able to make anything in life funny,” has revived Amann’s faith in the sense of community in his home town of Watson Lake, he said.

Since Jaedyn’s death on July 4, at least four current and former high school students from Watson Lake have shown Amann scars from when the nets fell on them. But they were bigger than Jaedyn.

The parents of these students say they complained to the school, said Amann.

The department has no record of any complaints, said Madden.

Other children have died from nets like these all across North America.

In Illinois, there is now Zach’s Law, named after six-year-old Zach Tran, who died from a falling soccer net in October 2003. The law requires movable soccer nets to be safely secured.

“I’d like to see Jaedyn’s Law,” said Amann.

“It’s sad when it takes something like this,” said Hicks. “It’s happened before. Do we need another 40 deaths?”

“We don’t want this to be forgotten about,” said Amann. “We want this to be exposed. The government’s got to clean up their own backyard. I don’t want any other kid to die like this.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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