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Boy Seriously Injured in Auto-Belay Accident in Ontario

Benjamin McDermott, a six-year-old from Barrie, was at the Horseshoe Adventure Park in Ontario when he fell nearly 15 metres to the ground.

The rock tower he was on has a number of auto-belays rigged to the top of the round feature which can have a number of people climbing on it at once.

It’s advertised on horseshoeresort.com that paying for a climb “includes three climbs” and you must be between 35 and 200 lbs.

The accident happened on Aug. 24 and was reported about on Aug. 30 by Shane MacDonald on simcoe.com here.

“Everybody said it was fine,” said Neil McDermott, Benjamin’s father. “He then leaned back and was reaching for a rope that wasn’t there.”

After falling from the top of the tower, he was unconscious and had a number of broken bones. “It’s a miracle that he even survived,” McDermott said. Benjamin is currently recovering in the hospital.

The outdoor rock tower at Horseshoe uses a system where the auto-bely is located inside of the vertical structure and re-directed with a pulley.

The ropes/straps are replaced with cables that have protectors within reach of the climber. It’s not a common system and nearly all climbing gyms use Trublue or a similar set-up.

Pulleys and cables on the climbing wall

Selena McLeod was at the scene with her family and witnessed the accident. “When I looked up, the carabiner, which was supposed to be attached to his harness, was still attached to the top of the auto-belaying device and it was open,” McLeod said.

“Maybe it was defective; maybe it wasn’t put on properly. I don’t know.” The rock wall has since been closed until the Ministry of Labour completes their investigation.

“We want there to be a proper investigation. We want to determine what happened and we want to make sure it never happens again,” McDermott said.

“This past Friday (Aug. 24) there was an unfortunate incident on our rock climbing wall,” wrote Val Hamilton, marketing manager for Horseshoe Resort. “Our thoughts are with the boy and his family.”

The family has sought representation from a personal-injury law firm. “We need to make sure that Ben’s interest and our interests as a family are looked after,” McDermott said.

There are hundreds of auto-belays at gyms across North America and accidents are very rare, but have been reported.

Horseshoe Resort rock climbing

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