Dangerous sledding practice leads to death, criminal charge

Posted February 16, 2010

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— When snow falls, doctors cringe in anticipation of the trauma they see when sledders hook themselves to a motor vehicle for a faster ride.

“We've had serious brain injuries, facial bone fractures, chest injuries, including (injured) ribs, and bruised lungs,” said Dr. Osi Udekwu, WakeMed's medical director of trauma and general surgery.

That dangerous winter weather practice turned deadly for a Kenly woman earlier this month and, on Tuesday, resulted in a criminal charge against her neighbor.

Towing sled can be traumatic Towing sled can be traumatic

Michael Barnes was driving his pickup truck, pulling three people on an old car hood in Johnston County. Their makeshift sled slid off the road and slammed into a telephone pole. Kathy Stilley Brown, 52, a nurse at Kenly Medical Associates, died of her injuries Feb. 1.

Barnes faces a charge of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in her death.

“Pulling a sled behind a motor vehicle on the highway, that's automatically reckless driving,” Johnston County Trooper Jake Partin said.

Udekwu said he treated 20 people for serious sledding injuries after the Jan. 29-30 snowstorm.

“The injuries we've seen sustained when being towed by motorized vehicles have been more severe this winter,” Udekwu said. “It is just generally a bad idea.”

Brown’s husband, who said his wife was “like a kid when it snowed” is convinced.

"I just want everyone to understand how dangerous that type of sledding can be, especially without a helmet. I would advise people just not to do it at all," a mourning Henry Brown said Tuesday.

Udekwu said he thinks there should be a law against the activity.

“The faster you go, the more severe the injuries can be,” he said.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • my voice Feb 18, 2010

    I do not think he SHOULD be charged with a crime, however this will probably depend mostly on what the family feels. In the eyes of the law he DID, WILLINGLY drive a motorized vehicle in unsafe conditions which put other lives in danger. He is guilty of that eventhough she willingly participated.

  • 2010 Feb 17, 2010

    one of the three on the car hood when it hit the pole was a minor. So not all were adults. But all the adults were irresponsible.

  • Griswold Feb 17, 2010

    If the driver was pulling a "sled" on a public road and it was not a street-legal trailer, than he should be charged with violating that law. The fact is that he endangered himself and the public by his actions. The lady may be dead, but she did not violate the law - the driver did.

  • Rolling Along Feb 17, 2010

    Let's charge the car hood manufacturer, the rope manufacturer, the truck manufacturer, the store that sold the gas to the run the truck...

  • Jack Flash Feb 17, 2010

    I don't see what the deceased's being a nurse has to do with her decision. Educated, medical professionals are immune to such decisions? Decisions -- I must add -- that many of us have made ourselves and recall fondly, shaking our heads at the sheer lunacy of it all in hindsight, but smiling nonetheless? The truth is, most of us make decisions that could lead to serious injury or death, and we usually get away with it.

    I'm more ambivalent about the driver's fate. If he's going to be charged, why not also charge the others riding the "sled"? Or those cheering them on? Were they not accessories? Should this really be treated like a criminal act, or can we just accept that sometimes tragedies result from understandable, forgivable actions?

  • freedomrings Feb 17, 2010

    Unfortunate that it is, She was an adult, she knew what she was doing.

  • Lightfoot3 Feb 17, 2010

    "I just want everyone to understand how dangerous that type of sledding can be, especially without a helmet. I would advise people just not to do it at all," - Henry Brown, the woman’s husband

    And hopefully he will not try to sue the guy. I’m willing to bet the husband was out there, cheering and egging his wife on.

    She was an adult and made the decision herself. The man should NOT be charged given her participation. At most charge him with reckless driving.

  • DowntownGirl Feb 17, 2010

    Notagain1903, the only difference between a redneck in the north and a redneck in the south is the snowplow on the front of the pick-up. "Hey, Vinnie, watch dis!"

  • Grandpeople Feb 17, 2010

    What in the heck does Redneck mean? It is through out all the time. Come up with something new. The biggest Redneck I know is a guy from New Jersey and I wish he would go back.

  • kre2208 Feb 17, 2010

    I do not understand the thinking process of the people who think the driver is innocent. He was using a vehicle to inappropriately transport individuals. He was dragging an object behind is vehicle on a publicly owned road. Those are the facts from the article.

    How fast was he going? Maybe she thought that maybe he would be going a couple of miles an hour; instead driver was doing 25 instead 5 miles an hour.

    What would happen if he had to stop? The people behind him would be forced under his vehicle. What if he had to turn to miss an uncoming vehicle? The people behind him would be sent under the uncoming vehicle.

    Just because there is snow on the road doesn't change it into a winter-wonderlad. It is still a state road. He was stupid for paying this game, someone got hurt (killed), and he needs to pay the price. As for the nurse, I hope there aren't some kids left behind asking themselves why their mother did something so stupid.