Dangerous sledding practice leads to death, criminal charge

Posted February 16, 2010 6:01 p.m. EST
Updated February 16, 2010 8:35 p.m. EST

— 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.

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.