Australian tourist Ross Pointer was shredding down Whitewater’s Giddyup Gully when he lost his balance, crash-landing with his snowboard overhead. The fall didn’t especially concern him at first, as the snow cushioned the impact — but then he collided with something jagged.
“Initially I thought I’d fallen on a rock and broken my sacrum. I felt this intense pain,” Pointer, 39, told the Star, about the Jan. 22 accident that left him in the hospital for eight days. “But then I looked behind me and there was this stump with blood and flesh all over it.”
Luckily his partner Kalindra McColl was nearby and was able to stuff the wound with snow while they waited for help. But because the accident occurred on an extreme run and it was a weekday, it was nearly five minutes before anyone appeared. During that time Pointer repeatedly lost consciousness.
“We didn’t have a first aid kit, unfortunately, but then a snowboarder came by and she asked him to get help as quickly as possible,” he said.
The grisly injury required two surgeries, including one in which a splinter of wood larger than a lighter was removed from his right buttock by local doctor Nick Sparrow, who jumped into the ambulance with them. And while Pointer was going through that, his partner was going through a different kind of an ordeal —arguing with their travel insurance company.
“It was my birthday and Ross had just gotten out of his second surgery. He was in so much pain I was lifting him and moving him every two minutes while arguing with someone from Travel Insuranz. Then tears, tears, tears and I’m told I haven’t reached the right person to speak with,” she said.
The experience exhausted her.
“In some ways, stress-wise I got the easier time. Pain-wise I didn’t,” said Pointer. “There was no empathy coming from the company. They just didn’t care.”
After making multiple phone calls over the course of a few days, the company informed them they weren’t covered — meaning they were on the hook for the more than $60,000 worth of medical bills Pointer accumulated during that time. Had they stayed longer, the bill could’ve topped $500,000.
But McColl insists they paid for the insurance, and the screw-up is on the insurance company’s end. In contention is whether she specifically requested sports coverage.
“I went through the whole process, got my quote and paid for it. They emailed me a week later with a policy and I filed it for safekeeping,” she said. “Then they called and said ‘sorry, we have no record of you purchasing sports coverage.”
McColl says she has a clear memory of filling in her information online. Currently there is both an internal and an external review being conducted to investigate her claims. McColl told the Star the company “lied” to her, took days to respond to her requests, and at one point asked her pointed questions in an email without explaining the purpose behind them.
McColl believes the error might have been technical, and is hoping to get access to her computer back in Australia to produce proof she went through the proper online process. The company has told other media outlets they aren’t responsible.
“This is a very unfortunate case and we appreciate that it has been a difficult time for the insured persons,” read a written statement from Travel Insuranz.
“There’s a bit of funny stuff going around,” McColl said. “In the media the company said we were naïve, that I could’ve picked up on their error earlier. And that’s a bummer for us. The whole reason for this trip was snowboarding, so why wouldn’t we purchase coverage?”
She said the company still hasn’t given her a satisfying answer as to how this could’ve happened.
“They’ve never once offered an explanation,” she said.
In the meantime, funds have started coming in from the community to support the struggling couple.
Thus far they’ve received over $7,000.The campaign is called “Project Dead Stump – Rebuild Ross’ Buns” and can be found at ozcrowd.com.
“We didn’t have any expectation of receiving anything, so it’s been unbelievable that people have been so generous,” said Pointer.
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