BURLINGTON - Burlington skateboard enthusiast and Ridin High Skate Shop owner John Van Hazinga remains in serious but stable condition at Fletcher Allen Health Care after suffering a high-speed accident on Route 108 two weeks ago.
Van Hazinga, 29, known amongst friends and fellow skaters as "Big John," was critically injured July 12 while leading a group of experienced skateboarders down the mountain road near Smugglers' Notch as part of a weekly group ride known as "Thrashin' Thursday." Van Hazinga, who was profiled in the July 4 issue of Seven Days ["One Helluva Ride"], was riding a new longboard specifically designed for high-speed downhill cruising when his wheels began to wobble, sending him into the air and causing him serious head trauma. Van Hazinga was wearing pads, gloves and a helmet at the time of his accident.
Since then, Van Hazinga's oldest sister, Rebecca, has been maintaining a detailed daily blog about her brother's medical condition. At times, the news has been dire - a July 18 posting quoted a hospital neurosurgeon, who referred to Van Hazinga's brain as "hamburgered." As of press time, he remained in a coma, though his intracranial pressure was dropping, a positive sign. According to reports from Rebecca, Van Hazinga will likely have a long, slow recovery, though she admits it's too soon to predict anything.
Despite this accident, and another one in Burlington only a week earlier, Van Hazinga's friends and fellow skaters are asking the community to focus on skateboarding's positive aspects rather than its inherent risks.
"Every day I go out skating now, I'm skating for John," says Kaitlyn Whalen, assistant manager at Ridin High. "I know when he gets better he'll jump right back on a board . . . I'm sure any negativity about the sport would really upset him."
As Van Hazinga put it in an interview just days before his accident, "If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn't own a skate shop. But I want to live a rich life, so that's why I'm in it."
Charitable donations for John Van Hazinga are being collected at Ridin High Skate Shop, Dobrá Tea and Merchants Bank in Burlington. Read about his progress at http://johnridinghigh.blogspot.com.