EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

January 1, 2013

Police threaten arrests of Greycourt sledders after 2 seriously injured

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — Police are threatening to arrest sledders for trespassing at a popular hill behind City Hall after two young women and an 11-year-old girl collided with trees and suffered serious injuries there in consecutive days.

The accidents occurred at Greycourt Park, 37 Pleasant St. Police Chief Joseph Solomon said officers are performing extra patrols in the area and will arrest anyone caught sledding there and charge them with trespassing.

The first accident was reported to police Sunday at 3:32 p.m. Elizabeth Patino, 22, was transported from the scene to Holy Family Hospital after injuring her ribs and complaining of back pain. She was later airlifted to a Boston hospital after it was determined she had suffered serious internal injuries, police said.

Police marked the steep hill at the park with caution tape and “no sledding’’ signs following the accident.

But Solomon said that did not prevent Heather Cunningham, 22, and her three sisters from sledding there yesterday.

Around 1:55 p.m., Solomon said Cunningham and her 11-year-old sister from Manchester, N.H., lost control of their sled and hit a tree, before veering off into a wooded area and striking a second tree.

Police said Cunningham suffered a possible broken pelvis, femur and ankle. She also appeared to have suffered serious head trauma, having cut her face open and broken her orbital bone after striking a tree with her head, Solomon said.

Solomon said Cunningham was transported to Lawrence General Hospital and later to Beth Israel Hospital in Boston where she remained last night in “serious condition.” Her younger sister received minor injuries to her head and back and was expected to be released from Holy Family Hospital last night.

Police said Cunningham lives in Savannah, Ga., and Patino is from California. Both women were visiting family in the area.

Greycourt Park is a state park but is maintained by the city, according to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation website. It is home to the former Tenney Estate and Gatehouse and is accessible from both Pleasant Street and the Saint Basil Seminary on East Street.

Solomon said the steep hill is a popular spot for sledding.

“As you come down the hill, they fly,” Solomon said. “These are both two extremely serious situations.”