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Probe continues into high school obstacle course accident
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/29/2009 5:21 PM

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An elevated obstacle course at Community High School in West Chicago will remain closed until officials determine what caused a senior girl to fall from a 20-foot-tall platform.

The student, who authorities would not name, has been hospitalized with serious injuries since the Dec. 18 accident during a morning gym class in the school's field house, officials said Tuesday.

West Chicago Community High School 94 Superintendent Lalo Ponce said the student had finished the so-called "ropes course" and was in the process of getting off the platform when the accident occurred.

"She completed the course and was on her way down," he said. "She left the platform to descend to the floor. At some point in time, she went into a free fall."

The student, who was wearing a safety harness, was supposed to attach the harness to the end of a rope so she could be gently lowered to the ground with the help of another student.

Ponce said officials don't know what caused the girl to plummet to the hard-rubber floor.

"We're investigating to determine exactly what happened," Ponce said. "I just don't know how she fell. We're still gathering information on that."

As a result, the obstacle course won't be used when classes resume after the holiday break.

"We have suspended use of the ropes course until we complete our investigation and get all the information we need to determine whether we should open it again or not," Ponce said.

He said the course has been "a very popular part" of the school's physical education program, but students aren't required to participate.

District officials say they aren't aware of any previous accidents involving the course, which was installed at least five years ago.

Meanwhile, school board member Katherine Doremus said she's concerned about the well-being of the injured student. Information about the extent of the student's injuries wasn't available.

"I personally have known her since she was in kindergarten, and my heart goes out to her and her family." Doremus said. "It's an absolutely devastating, heartbreaking thing to have had happened."