SALT LAKE CITY — A young Utah skier who was badly injured in a car crash is on the long road to recovery.
Hank Shipman, 15, had been recuperating at a Portland hospital. He was well enough to be flown to Primary Children's Medical Center on Tuesday night.
His prognosis is still uncertain, but his mother says he's smiling and joking, and already planning his next ski race.
"Hank is very determined. He's got a very large ego, which is probably a good thing in this case," Julie Shipman said.
Her son, a Rowmark Ski Academy student at Rowland Hall, has an adventurous spirit.
"Everybody keeps saying, 'If anyone will make it, Hank will make it,'" she said.
A competitive skier, Hank has spent most of his young life on the slopes. On April 9, Hank, along with other Rowmark Ski Academy skiers and their coach, Scott Veenis, were at Mount Hood Meadows in Oregon, for a ski racing competition.
On their drive back to the hotel, tragedy struck.
"There was a car passing on a double yellow line, blind curve, on a cell phone," Shipman said.
The two vehicles collided. Veenis was behind the wheel of the school's Suburban.
Veenis maneuvered the car to avoid a head-on impact and his quick action likely saved all their lives, said Shipman.
"They say that if he had taken it head on, there's no way it could have not been fatal," she said.
Veenis and Hank, who was sitting behind the driver's seat, were flown to hospitals in Portland with serious injuries. Another teen broke his arm. The others were not hurt.
Shipman said her son's injuries are so severe, doctors can't say if he'll be able to ski again at his level.
"He broke four vertebrae in his neck with spinal cord damage. (He) did not sever the spinal cord, but did damage it pretty seriously," she said.
But in the past 10 days, Hank's progress has been remarkable. His left side was paralyzed. But now he can move his left leg.
Hank will be at Primary Children's hospital for another six to eight weeks.
"I was saying in the hospital that we need a miracle and somebody reminded me that we already had one, and that was the fact that they're all alive," Shipman said.
Information about how to help the families is available on the Rowland Hall website at www.rowlandhall.org.