The fate of a Yukon snowmobiler remains unclear after more than a week in hospital.
Whitehorse’s Darryl Tait, 19, was performing at a snowmobile demonstration show in New Hampshire when something went wrong.
Tait was attempting a back flip – a trick he has performed many times. But, this time, the snowmobile crashed to earth, landing on Tait.
One of his lungs was punctured, the other collapsed and he broke three ribs.
Doctors also believe Tait has severed his spinal cord, but cannot be sure until surgery is performed. They have been waiting for the condition of his lungs to improve before conducting back surgery.
“It’s been a struggle for his lungs that were damaged in the crash to recover enough that they could do surgery on his back,” said Russ Tait, Darryl’s uncle. “So at this point he’s still in intensive care at (Massachusetts General Hospital).
“They’re going to try and do it again on Wednesday.
“Unless there’s something miraculous that they find when they do surgery, it looks like the spinal cord is severed between the T5 and T6 vertebrae. So that means he would be paralyzed from the chest down, basically.”
According to Jordan Sands, one of four friends to fly to Boston visit Tait, one of the tubes has been removed from his lung and the surgery is still scheduled for Wednesday.
“He’s in a good state of mind – he was really happy to see us,” said Sands. “He was writing on paper when we were there, doing hand signals and wanting to do our special handshakes.
“I’m sure it’s going to hit him harder and harder as he’s off the drugs and realizes what’s going on.”
It is believed that a mechanical malfunction on the snowmobile may have caused the crash, with the engine cutting out just after liftoff.
“They haven’t fully diagnosed it, but basically, while he was doing this back flip, the machine quit part way through the revolution – you need to have the high-speed track revolution,” said Russ. “This is secondhand from one of the riders that was there, and video – they could tell … it didn’t sound particularly right. But in that manoeuvre there’s no room for error.”
“Something happened with the sled so it didn’t have enough power to flip around,” said Sands. “It cut out right as he was coming off the lip.”
Tait has a long history of involvement in sports with aerial elements, including motorcross, BMX riding, skateboarding and snowboarding, in which he won Arctic Winter Games medals.
He began freestyle snowmobiling after moving to the Yukon from Yellowknife, NWT, in 2008.
“Anything that had to with some piece of equipment and being in the air, that was his game,” said Russ. “He was a young man doing what his passion was, and his goal was to ride in the X Games and he was making lots of strides in that direction. He was invited to Colorado to ride with the guys that won the X Games last year.”
Closer to home, in April Tait won the 500cc division at the Snowmobile Up Hill Challenge hosted by Mount Sima.
In August, Tait displayed his freestyle abilities at the YXY Games in a freestyle ramp show in Whitehorse, winning best trick and the freestyle competition, completing back flips to win both events.
“There’s been thousands of people writing in, supporting him and trying to help him out,” said Russ. “He has all his faculties about him, so he understands what’s going on. He’s in a lot of pain, but each day he’s getting better.
“He’s as upbeat as he can be, given the circumstance.”
Although unable to communicate verbally, Tait’s spirit appears indomitable.
“He’s coming off the drugs and it’s becoming more reality for him, but he’s talking 2014 Paralympics,” said Sands.
About 1,300 people have joined a Facebook group set up to support Tait’s recovery and a website has been created at www.pullthroughdarryl.com.
“He’s not out of the woods yet because there’s a lot that can go wrong at this point,” said Russ.
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