- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

TORONTO (AP) - Quebec is considering making helmets mandatory on ski slopes following the death of actress Natasha Richardson and after doctors tried to persuade the province’s sports minister to do it.

Richardson was not wearing a helmet when she fell Monday while taking a beginners ski course in Quebec. The New York City medical examiner’s office said she died Wednesday of blunt impact to the head.

Richardson’s death has added impetus to the province’s plans, said Jean-Pascal Bernier, a spokesman for the sports minister, on Thursday.

The minister, Michelle Courchesne, met with emergency room doctors this week and will meet with Quebec ski resort owners and operators in the coming weeks, Bernier said.

Quebec emergency room doctors tried to persuade Courchesne to make it mandatory during their meeting. The doctors first called for mandatory use of helmets three weeks ago.

“The minister wants to see what kind of regulation can be made by the government to make the wearing of the helmet an obligation,” Bernier told The Associated Press.

Bernier said Courchesne would not be meeting with Mont Tremblant resort officials about the 45-year-old actress’s death.

Before Richardson’s death, the debate over helmet use surfaced last month in Ontario after a 13-year-old South Korean exchange student who wasn’t wearing a helmet hit a tree and died.

Between 1990 and 2008, at least 39 people died on Quebec’s ski slopes, the provincial coroner’s office said. A report released last year suggested that of the 26 deaths between 1990 and 2004, 14 were the result of head injuries. Helmets were worn in just two of those 14 cases.

Ski operators are among the most vocal opponents to mandated helmet use.

Alexis Boyer of the Quebec Ski Areas Association said he supports the use of helmets, but does not back a law mandating their use, saying it would put operators in the position of having to police their guests.

Valerie Powell of the Canada Safety Council said the group would like to see everybody wear helmets.

“By no means will a helmet save you 100 per cent but it’s definitely a step in the right direction to try to prevent brain damage or something like that,” Powell said.

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