Cory Clever recently brought his 3-year-old daughter Lucia to Gilbert Regional Park for a play date and left with a broken ankle.
The 38-year-old Queen Creek resident blames the concrete slide in the playground and wants the town to get rid of it – as did a California community after being flooded by lawsuits over injuries on its concrete slide.
“I now believe it has risen to the point of negligence,” Clever said. “They were made aware of the problem.”
Town officials did not respond to the Gilbert Sun News’ request for comment by deadline.
Ben Kalkman, chairman of the Parks and Recreation Board said he was not aware of issues with the slide in question.
“Gilbert’s playgrounds are maintained and inspected regularly and meet all safety standards,” he said in an email.
Clever is the third person known to have filed a claim against the town for injuries incurred on the slide. He’s asking for $19,480, the cost of using up his personal and sick leave.
Because he is a disabled veteran, he said he is not seeking reimbursement for medical expenses – so far over $150,000- which are covered by the Veterans Administration.
The incident unfolded on a Saturday in December.
Clever said that it was the first time he and Lucia visited the park and she immediately gravitated to the slide.
“I was behind her a little ways, 15 feet behind her,” the federal law enforcement officer recalled. “I saw the angle of the slide and said, ‘hey, don’t go down that.’”
But the little girl had already began her decent on the slide, which launched her 5 feet into the air and onto the ground, according to Clever.
“She hit her head,” he said. “She hit hard and started making this guttural noise. My fear was that my daughter fractured her spine.”
Little kids were lining up to take their turn and Clever was afraid they would land on her. The fastest way to reach his daughter was to go down the slide, which Clever did.
He said he sat on the slide in a normal fashion and felt his right ankle pop as soon as he hit the landing pad.
“The force of which that slide generated is insane,” Clever said, adding that he immediately knew he had broken his ankle because it was hanging.
He said he had his daughter crawl over to him so he could check her for injuries.
She was OK but Clever broke his ankle fibula and tibia and required surgery and a five-day hospital stay.
“So I got a big scar, a metal plate and pins,” he said. “I can’t drive. This has completely affected my life. I’m not sleeping because I’m so uncomfortable. The nerve damage from this is worse than the bone pain. I feel like something is burning in my foot.”
Clever said that he lays wide awake at night and to not disturb his wife, he goes to the couch to nod off for an hour or two.
“I’ve got two little kids. I can’t change diapers, rock my daughter to sleep,” said Clever, who added that he shares child-rearing responsibilities with wife Andrea.
“I’m healthy, in good shape and work out every day,” he continued. “I can’t work out (now).”
The biggest blow for Clever is that the injury has scuttled his ability to volunteer for Operation Pay it Forward, which he has been doing since 2016. The veterans-founded nonprofit helps returning combat veterans overcome injuries and demons with outdoor activities as they transition back to civilian life.
Clever serves on the board of directors and he also takes veterans on outdoor excursions.
“Typically we do two to three events a year, hunting and fishing trips and camping,” he said. And “I got a PTSD clinic put together to run. This takes away from my ability to do my part. It just completely wiped out so many plans. This is a huge issue for me.”
Clever said he can’t put any weight on his ankle for six weeks and is looking to be absent from his job and from his volunteer work for eight weeks, which burns all of his time off.
“I had no idea the slide was dangerous,” he said, until he read about the two previous injury claims filed against the town.
In 2021, a Gilbert grandmother submitted a claim for $150,000 after she said she suffered leg and ankle injuries and the following year a Queen Creek Realtor submitted a $5,000 claim for a broken ankle. Both women said the slide was too slippery and too fast and launched them like a projectile.
At the time, the town issued a statement that its playground equipment was designed, manufactured and installed in accordance with the standards outlined in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety.
According to town records, there’s been three other reported injuries, two including children.
The first occurred just one day after the park’s ribbon-cutting ceremony in September 2019.
A mother reported that her young daughter “slid off the concrete slide and hit the ground pretty hard, where the wood chips at the base had been moved due to repeated use,” said an employee’s report of the incident.
“The child supposedly hit her tailbone hard and either passed out or had a seizure,” the report read, adding that paramedics were called to the scene.
A second child was injured in March 2021. A mother reported that “her daughter went down the slide and broke her shoulder.”
And an adult in January 2020 alleged she broke a vertebra in her back from the slide.
Documents also showed that people have reported the slide’s danger to the town.
“There needs to be a ramp at the end to slow descent,” one person reported to the town. “I’ve watched several kids bounce like a skipped rock, several hurt enough they cry. It’s sad that such a fun feature is so dangerous.”
Social media comments also complained about the lack of safety with the slide.
Clever said that he spoke with the town risk manager, who would not acknowledge if there were any other injuries and informed him that she would forward his request for the slide’s removal to the Town Attorney. Clever said he has yet to hear back from Chris Payne.
“I would rather have the slide gone than receive anything,” he said.
Gilbert isn’t the only community when the issue of a concrete slide’s safety became headline news.
In Pismo Beach, California, a number of people have sued over injuries they say they incurred from using a concrete slide at the city’s popular Pier Plaza.
Reportedly there have been over 30 injuries since the slide opened in 2020 and one law firm alone filed 20 lawsuits against the city.
Cal Coast News reported that despite getting hit with one lawsuit a month, the City of Pismo Beach kept the slide open.
In 2021, the contractor that installed the slide demanded the city shut it down because of the injuries and lawsuits. The suits named the city and the slide’s contractors and design firms, according to the online publication.
Pismo Beach last June finally announced the permanent closure of the slide, citing the pending lawsuits “from the repeated misuse of the slide” and claiming coastal tides caused the sand to recede at the base of the play structure.
By Cecilia Chan, GSN Managing Editor www.gilbertsunnews.com
2024-01-15 07:00:00 , www.gilbertsunnews.com – Vivrr Local Results in news of type article