Teen dies saving 3-year-old cousin in tragic sledding accident in upstate New York

A 16-year-old girl is being hailed a hero for giving her life to save her 3-year-old cousin as they slammed into a tree at the bottom of a popular sledding hill.

Renee Hill was enjoying the snow with cousins on Saturday at the popular spot in Lewiston, N.Y., when she realized she and her toddler cousin were about to crash, her family said.

“She had gone down the hill,” her mother, Alexis Kraft, told WKBW-TV. “She had my 3-year-old nephew on with her. She saw the tree coming. Her first instinct was to put her foot down and flip the sled so my nephew wouldn’t get hurt. She hit the tree.”

The tragedy happened just after 10 a.m. Saturday, when the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call of an accident at the Clyde L. Burmaster Park’s sledding hill, the department said in a statement.

“The two were apparently riding a sledding tube when they struck a tree at the bottom of the hill,” the statement said. Fire and ambulance rendered aid, but the girl could not be saved.

“The two were then transported by ambulance to the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo for treatment,” police said. “Subsequent to arrival at the hospital, the female was pronounced deceased due to her injuries. The male was treated and released.”

“Her heart stopped on the way to the hospital,” her grieving mother told WKBW of her daughter, the eldest of four children.

The Town of Lewiston Police Department and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office are investigating, and the sledding hill remained closed on Sunday “until further notice due to hazardous conditions,” a sign posted there reads, according to The Buffalo News.

This is far from the first accident on the popular hill, The Buffalo News reported. It was closed entirely from 2002 to 2004 and then “reconfigured to try to make it safer after at least three lawsuits over crashes,” The Buffalo News said Saturday.

Sledding-related injuries led to 2017, 220,488 ER visits from 2008 through 2017, reported CNN, citing the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, with nearly 70% of them children aged 19 and under.

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