It was a day of skiing Grade 8 student Gabriel Neilson won’t soon forget.
Neilson and four friends were carving the slopes of Grouse Mountain Feb. 27 when they spotted an eight-year-old boy hanging precariously from a chairlift. They and several other bystanders sprang into motion to rescue the boy.
“We were all coming down (the mountain) one after the other. Two of our friends got down there first and saw a kid dangling,” Neilson, a member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, told The B.C. Catholic. (His father Kyle Neilson is former director of evangelization and discipleship for the Archdiocese of Vancouver.)
When Neilson arrived to the scene, he first saw a friend yanking some protective padding off heavy-duty ski equipment. He was confused until he noticed a group of people gathered under the chairlift, below a boy suspended an estimated six metres from the ground.
“I thought, ‘okay, he’s going to have to drop. There’s no way he’s going to hold on and not fall.’”
Neilson helped the small crowd hold a piece of netting and the padding below the boy. “I told him to take his skis off” for a safer fall, said Neilson.
The eight-year-old obeyed, kicking off his skis and, soon after, falling into the makeshift safety net. The boy seemed shaken up but otherwise unharmed. “We were all amazed that it worked!”
Neilson and his four friends, all of whom are homeschooled, were interviewed by several B.C. news outlets and hailed as local heroes. They took it all in stride.
“We were surprisingly calm and just thankful the kid was alright.”
After the TV interviews, the boys got right back onto their skis to enjoy a little more extracurricular time in the snow.
Grouse Mountain has recognized the boys, along with two adult skiers, as “Grouse Heroes” and given them complimentary passes for the next ski season.