Story By: Lisa-Maria Goertz, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
A visually-impaired skier has won a near seven-year court battle after a collision with a blind skier left him totally blind.
Jeroen van Dijk, 70, was skiing in the municipality of Bramberg in the central-west Austrian state of Salzburg on 23rd January 2014.
Jeroen, who suffered a stroke in 2010 affecting both eyes, was the chairman of the Dutch Ski Touring Commission with over 50 years’ experience in mountaineering.
According to national newspaper AD, the avid skier decided to try skiing for the visually impaired to enjoy his passion once again.
Jeroen was skiing down a virtually empty slope when a blind skier collided with him on the piste, breaking his jaw and causing him to lose the 20 percent vision he had left.
Jeroen told AD: “My accident could have been avoided”.
Jeroen says he was wearing a fluorescent yellow vest with the word ‘blind’ on it and was followed by a supervisor from the Dutch Visually-Disabled Ski Association (NVSV) who he communicated with via walkie-talkie.
According to his statement, Jeroen was being guided down the slope with verbal instructions when his guide fell slightly behind.
Suddenly, he was told to turn left then right straight after, but it was too late and a blind skier hit him head-on.
He was stretchered down the slope and woke up in hospital.
He told AD: “I didn’t see anything at all. I did not know where I was or what had happened.
Jeroen filed a lawsuit against the NVSV, the guide, and blind skier.
The court found that the blind skier made a left-turn without being instructed to do so and the NVSV and guide were acquitted.
After six and a half years, Jeroen won the lawsuit against the skier who collided with him and has been awarded EUR 200,000 (GBP 180,000) in compensation, a large part of which he has already spent on nursing, domestic help, and home adjustments.
Jeroen says he hopes his story will serve to improve the safety measures in place.
He said: “My accident could have been prevented if there had been other rules. A walkie-talkie should also be mandatory.
“I am not angry or bitter. I don’t blame anyone for this accident, but the liability of the skier, guide, and NVSV had to be investigated. Risks can clearly be limited.”
He added: “My passion for skiing is over. I now live almost blind in a different world with new challenges.”
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