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Girl's leg broken during cheese-rolling festival in Whistler, B.C.: lawsuit

Juli Nonaka, 3, is seen in this undated family handout photo. A lawsuit alleges Juli Nonaka, 3, suffered a broken leg after being hit by a five-kilogram cheese wheel during the Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival in Whistler, B.C. in August 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ HO, Toshihiro Nonaka *MANDATORY CREDIT*
October 19, 2016 - 5:56 PM

VANCOUVER - A cheese-rolling competition in Whistler, B.C., went from fun to frightening when a runaway wheel of cheddar crashed into a three-year-old girl and broke her leg, a lawsuit alleges.

The notice of civil claim says Juli Nonaka was watching the Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival on Blackcomb Mountain in August when the five-kilogram wheel came flying down the hill and stretched a safety net, colliding with her.

Toshihiro Nonaka filed the lawsuit in British Columbia Supreme Court on his daughter's behalf. He said in an interview that he wasn't with his daughter at the festival, but his wife was.

"The cheese was very fast and it came down to my daughter," Nonaka said Wednesday. "She just watched beside the net and it hit my daughter's left leg."

He said the girl was knocked backwards down the hill, tumbling about two or three metres before someone caught her. Her left leg was broken, he said.

"She was crying," he said, adding it was "very, very painful" for her.

The allegations contained in the lawsuit have not been proven in court and no statements of defence have been filed.

The defendants are named as: Vail Resorts, the U.S. owner of Whistler Blackcomb; Dairy Farmers of Canada, the hosts of the festival and Smak Media and Promotions, the event promoters.

Whistler Blackcomb said in a statement that the incident is "an unfortunate accident that happened on Blackcomb Mountain during an event which was being run by a third party operator."

"The incident is currently under investigation and we wish the injured girl a full recovery," the statement said.

Dairy Farmers of Canada and Smak declined comment.

Nonaka said his daughter was rushed to B.C. Children's Hospital, where she spent the next five days. A photo of an X-ray provided by Nonaka shows an upper leg bone that is broken at the thigh.

He said she wore a cast for eight weeks and only had it removed earlier this week. She still can't walk much and must be pushed around in a stroller or held, he added.

The lawsuit alleges negligence and breach of statutory duty. The defendants failed to take reasonable care to prevent injury to the plaintiff, failed to properly train employees and failed to take reasonable steps to block off or alter the netting that gave way, it says.

The suit is seeking damages for the costs of prescriptions, physiotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractic care as well as costs of future care. It's also seeking damages for "pain, suffering and loss of amenities of life" and "loss of enjoyment of life."

Nonaka, a 32-year-old chef at a Japanese restaurant in Whistler, said he's concerned about long-term impacts to his daughter's health.

"The doctor said maybe no after-effects, but we don't know her future," he said. "In five years, 10 years, 15 years ... you never know."

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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