Injured student discusses skateboarding incident, administrators explain university policies

Students and police congregate at the scene after Ivan Piedra was transported into the ambulance. Thursday, August 24, 2023 (Photo by Andrew Boggess) Piedra near the scene of the incident. Friday, September 8, 2023 (Photo by Amanda Blake)
Students and police congregate at the scene after Ivan Piedra was transported into the ambulance. Thursday, August 24, 2023 (Photo by Andrew Boggess) Piedra near the scene of the incident. Friday, September 8, 2023 (Photo by Amanda Blake)

Southern Adventist University student Ivan Piedra, a freshman social work major, suffered a laceration on his head and a fractured collarbone after crashing his cruiser skateboard on campus on Aug. 24, as reported in a previous Accent article. A week later, a driver hit a Southern student on a scooter in the Apison Pike and University Drive intersection. Collegedale police and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) responded to both scenes, drawing the attention of multiple students who contacted the Accent.

A recent poll on the Accent’s Instagram suggests that the use of skateboards, longboards and scooters on campus is becoming more prominent, as 68% of respondents indicated that they have noticed an increase in the number of students using them. The Accent contacted Southern administrators and Piedra about recommended safety precautions for skateboarders and scooterists on campus.

Skateboarding Crash

In an interview with the Accent, Piedra said he had crashed three times on Southern’s campus before his injury-inducing crash on Aug. 24. Each time he fell during his first three crashes, he caught himself. 

While skating on Aug. 24, Piedra was wearing knee pads and wrist braces but no helmet. As he was cruising down the hill beside Thatcher South, he began building more speed than he usually did on the route. 

“I don’t know what happened in my mind where I got really comfortable,” Piedra said. “I became less cautious.”

When he approached the entrance to Thatcher Hall’s side parking lot, he spotted a car about to turn into the lot. Beginning  to panic, he signaled to the driver to wait for him to pass. He was launched off his board when the board’s wheels hit the asphalt of the lot entrance. 

“I was just, like, lunging forward and kind of flopping on the ground,” Piedra said. “ … I didn’t go unconscious, but it happened so quickly that I couldn’t catch myself.”

Piedra said people in the area came to his aid. His fractured collarbone prevented him from getting up, and he was terrified by the pool of blood beginning to form from the cut on his head. He began to think of stories he’d heard about students suffering head injuries, leaving them unable to attend college. Other than a laceration, however, his head was fine.

EMS transported Piedra to Parkridge East Hospital, and his friends picked him up and drove him back to campus that night.

Piedra said he loves skateboarding, as it’s a convenient way to get around for college students, but his recent experience has convinced him to begin wearing a helmet.

“[Skating] can be pretty safe as long as you know what you’re doing,” Piedra said. “I’m going to keep skating, but not without a helmet. I’ve come to realize that skating, at least in this environment, can be very unpredictable, even in places where it seems like the terrain is completely fine. The smallest thing can knock you off.”

When asked what he would say to other skaters on campus about safety, Piedra said he’d recently spoken to a friend about the high number of skaters, scooterists and cyclists they’d seen on campus. Based on his observations, only some cyclists regularly wear helmets.

“I think that’s a bit concerning. … I think having at least a helmet is really important because … you never know what can happen,” Piedra said. “You never know, and you never have 100% control. So, it’s always a good idea to have a helmet.

“I’m really thankful nothing happened to me when I hit my head — no concussion, no anything,” he continued. “I fully believe that was just the sheer grace of God. I know to wear a helmet next time.”

Scooter Incident 

The scooterist hit by a car on Aug. 31 had a scraped knee, but no additional injuries were mentioned in the police report or by Jaime Heath, assistant chief of police for the Collegedale Police Department. The scooterist told officers at the scene he was a Southern student, Heath said, and, using the police report, the Accent matched the student’s name and description to his eJoker profile. The Accent emailed the student, asking for his perspective, but he did not respond.

According to the police report, the student was hit at 9:20 p.m. and told officers that the vehicle that hit him in the intersection did not adhere to the stop sign before turning, but the driver told officers he did stop. The driver also said the student did not have a reflector vest or lights on his person or scooter. 

The police report confirmed that the scooter had a few reflectors, “but there was no active light illuminating.” The report added that the student said he turned off his lights to see the street better. An officer explained to the student that he must have an operating light and wear a reflector vest when scootering in the dark to help drivers see him.

University Policies

Southern’s policy on “skateboard, longboards, in-line skates, and scooters,” found in the Student Handbook, states that students perform any type of skating, scootering or “board-type activities” at their own risk. The policy continues by stating that students who assume the risk should abide by certain guidelines, such as wearing protective gear and avoiding riding where vehicles are normally driven and inside buildings.

“Because motorized bicycles, longboards, skateboards, and scooters are ridden at greater speeds than their non-motorized counterparts, they are banned from campus,” the policy concludes.

The university would not typically sanction a scooterist or skateboarder for not abiding by the policy’s guidelines unless the student continued to endanger others after being warned to change their riding behavior, wrote Janell Hullquist, director of Marketing and University Relations, and Dennis Negrón, who oversees the Student Handbook as director of Student Development, in emails to the Accent. 

Negrón added that Piedra’s incident has led the Student Development Committee to consider “if the policy language is still relevant for today.”

Generally, Southern does not see more than one skateboard injury per year, added Hullquist. 

“Some years have no injury reports,” she wrote. “The most tragic event occurred during the 1984-1985 school year when the institution mourned student Scott Yankelevitz and his fatal skateboard accident.”

She added that Yankelevitz’s parents created an endowed scholarship in their son’s name, which financially assists Southern students to this day.

According to Hullquist, Campus Safety advises new students during orientation to be “situationally aware of their surroundings” and use safety gear. 

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