WASHINGTON – The skateboarding death of 18-year-old John Malvar highlights the dangers of dangers of skateboarding while not wearing a helmet.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports more than 25,000 people are injured on skateboards each year. Six out of 10 are kids under the age of 15.
Safety experts recommend helmet use, but are kids interested in using them?
The Shaw Skate Park in D.C. is busy with skateboarders this time of year, including 8-year-old Demetrius DeMammos.
“You get the board off the ground, but as you do you spin the board and land it,” DeMammos told WTOP Reporter Kate Ryan, describing his favorite trick, a 180 ollie.
Head to toe, DeMammos wore elbow, wrist and knee pads and even a helmet. His mother said though not a requirement, the skateboarding store recommended the protective gear. However, her son was definitely in the minority.
Outside of 8-year-old DeMammos, no one at the park Tuesday wore a helmet.
“It’s just not really part of the skateboarding culture I guess,” said Colin Heindel, 20, from Gaithersburg, Md.
But not wearing a helmet can end tragically.
In the case of Malvar, the Washington-Lee High School senior who died in Arlington Heights, Malvar wasn’t wearing a helmet and was “skitching” – where a skateboarder grabs hold of a moving vehicle and lets it pull him along while he stands on a skateboard.
“It’s just, you know, fun to grab the back of a car and just go up the street a little bit,” says 20-year-old Ayman Abdeldayem, a skateboarder at Shaw Skate Park.
“Nothing too crazy. If it gets too fast I just let go,” Abdeldayem says.
Heindel, who doesn’t wear helmets, says he normally “walks out” of tricks if he starts to fall.
“I’ve never hit my head skating, ever,” Heindel says.
Instructor Daniel Kim with StreetSmartSkate also was at Shaw Skate Park Tuesday. He says he lets students decide whether to wear safety gear, including helmets.
“We teach them in a skate park. So instead of doing it in the streets, we do it in a controlled environment,” Kim told WTOP.
“There’s no cars, pedestrians. It’s safer that way,” Kim says.
One skateboarder talks about why he doesn’t wear a helmet: