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February 14, 1992 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-02-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Since David Died

Continued from preceding page

He turned again, skied
several hundred feet and
then fell approximately 600
feet over an ice break in a
glacier in an area called
Plateau-Rosa.
The cause of his death
was a fractured skull and
asphyxiation. His body
would be airlifted by
helicopter from the site.
Ms. Raznik, however, did
not know what happened to
him. She waited and wat-
ched the slope until the last
skiers came in.
Ms. Raznik headed back
to the gondola which would
take her to the village of
Zermatt. There, a ticket
taker, who came from Lon-
don, noticed the dazed con-
dition she was in as well as
the word "Michigan" on
her sweatshirt. She would
come to learn that Mr.
Stillman wasn't the first
person to die on that cliff.
She found out in a cruel


During a happier time,
Dr. Stillman relaxes with
his son. Below, the
letter "B" indicates the
point where David
Stillman went under the
boundary rope.

24

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 1992

way what happened to Mr.
Stillman. The village
police brought in an Eng-
lish-speaking shopkeeper
to interpret.
"Your friend has had an
accident," the man said.
When he was asked what
hospital Mr. Stillman was
in, the terse reply that
followed went, "Your
friend is dead."
Ms. Raznik, according to
her statement, screamed
and convulsed to the floor.
But she was strong enough
to refuse sedation. She
even had the unforgettable
task of calling Mr.
Stillman's parents, who
were vacationing with
daughter Lauren in
Tuscon. When the phone
rang late that night, the
family members assumed
that someone in the family
was either sick or dead.
But that's what we all sort
of assume.
Lauren heard her mother
scream from the other
room.
"You think that it's a
mistake, that it didn't real-
ly happen," said Lauren,
who is studying for her
master's in sociology at the
University of Michigan.

"It took time for it to sink
in that this was the truth,"
said Mrs. Stillman. "David
knew how to ski. He was an
expert. Besides, people
don't die from skiing. They
may break a leg or rip up a
knee, but they don't die,
not a skier like David."
Since his death, the
Stillmans have been on a
crusade to bring attention to
the European style of 'ski
resort that they believe
took their son's life. While
they don't argue that
David did go under the
rope and off-course, they
are angry that there
weren't sufficient warning

signs to keep their son and
others out of danger.
It wasn't until Ms. Raz-
nik was at the police sta-
tion that she received a
map of the area with a
warning in four languages:
"Under no circumstances
leave the marked and bar-
ricaded ski runs."
There were no warning
signs. Ms. Raznik was told
that skiers timed them-
selves on a downhill run
nearby (see photo). David
Stillman fell off a ledge just
to the right of that
downhill run.
When he died, the official
correspondence coming
from Zermatt had nothing
to do with condolences and
sadness. Instead, the fami-
ly was told to wire
thousands of dollars if they
wanted their son flown
back to the States. The
family would receive an
itemized bill that was
stomach-turning, every-
thing from the major ex-
pense of transporting the
body via Swissair through
Zurich, London and then to
Detroit, to money for a
shroud and telephone and
police expenses.
Money was even taken
from David's wallet in
Switzerland to help pay the
expenses.
Recently, the family
received the police report
with photographs of the
accident scene. They
waited almost half a year
to receive the official pa-
pers. They were sent four

photographs. Two of the
photos show the roped-in
run and the point where
David went under the rope.
But the first photo the
family would see in the
report was that of their son
and brother lying in the
snow, his chest exposed be-
cause of the CPR effort, the
snow blood-stained.
The family has said they
have been stonewalled by
the Swiss government and
the resort itself for more
details on the accident.
They've also been told
there have been other
deaths and injuries at the
same location, though they
can't substantiate it. They
are strongly considering
legal action, and they are
also trying to bring the cir-
cumstances to the atten-
tion of the national Ameri-
can media.
In the living room of
their lakeside West Bloom-
field home are various
family photos, some in-
cluding David. But on this
day, adjacent to those
photos are blow-up shots
showing the Matterhorn's
snow white mountain
landscapes and blue skies.
Under most circumstances,
the photos are beautiful.
But there, making for a
tragic contrast in the
foreground, is the dead body
of their son.
"I want to spread the
news about this accident,"
said Mrs. Stillman. "This
happened to a wonderful,
strong young man, a man

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