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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Snow bodyboarder slams into rocks

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i — A serious accident on snow-covered Mauna Kea has underscored a recent warning about hazardous conditions atop the 13,796-foot volcano.

Liz Royale was hurt in a snow board accident on Mauna Kea.
Liz Royale, 18, of Kona, underwent seven hours of surgery Monday night at the Queen's Medical Center to remove bone fragments from her brain after the left side of her head was crushed when her bodyboard sled was launched into exposed lava rock during a Sunday outing to Mauna Kea.

Although it appears she will survive, the West Hawai'i Explorations charter school student faces many more reconstructive surgeries, said her sister, Katherine Royale of Kona. The good news is that she did not suffer permanent brain damage or lose her left eye, she said.

Ronald Koehler of Mauna Kea Support Services, which serves the observatories on the summit, just last week issued a safety warning aimed at snowboarders and others who drive up the mountain to play in the snow.

"When you are on a boogie board, you meet Mr. Gravity and there is nothing to protect you," Koehler said yesterday.

Royale had gone up to Mauna Kea with friends, and apparently lost control of the board she was using as a sled. Witnesses said the teenager was "just propelled out onto the lava," Katherine Royale said.

John Chiu is part of a contingent of die-hard Maui snowboarders who trek to Mauna Kea.

"There are patches of rocks," he said. "There's a decent amount of snow, but then again, it's not Colorado or Utah. When you're tobogganing, which is essentially what you're doing on a boogie board, you can't really turn and you can get out of control."