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Claim Filed Over Collision With Sky Diver : Accidents: The 63-year-old Canoga Park woman's action against Simi Valley says she was tangled in parachute lines and dragged at a holiday event.

August 14, 1992|PHIL SNEIDERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Canoga Park grandmother wants Simi Valley to pay for injuries she suffered when a descending sky diver kicked her in the head, tangled her in parachute lines and dragged her across a field in front of her horrified family at the city-sponsored Fourth of July celebration.

Anna Lilienthal, 63, has filed a damage claim against the city, saying she suffered head, neck and back injuries, as well as emotional trauma in the collision at this year's Independence Day celebration at the Simi Valley High School stadium. Her claim states that Lilienthal has no medical insurance but has amassed more than $3,800 in bills stemming from the mishap.

Her claim, seeking unspecified damages, contends that the city, a co-sponsor of the celebration, did not provide a safe place for spectators.

Simi Valley City Atty. John Torrance said Thursday the claim will probably be referred to the insurance company that provided liability coverage for the annual event.

A spokesman for the parachute team confirmed that Lilienthal was struck by a woman sky diver but denied that the grandmother was dragged or choked by a parachute.

In her claim, Lilienthal said she was "kicked in the head" on July 4 as a tandem parachute team veered off course and landed in an area that was roped off for spectators.

She then "became entangled in the parachute ropes and was dragged several feet across the field, colliding with several beach chairs located in her pathway," the claim states.

It adds that Lilienthal "was nearly suffocated and strangled by the parachute apparatus as she was dragged along the field." She was treated at the scene by paramedics, then taken to Simi Valley Hospital.

The Canoga Park woman has a daughter in Simi Valley. She was attending the city's Fourth of July celebration with three adult children, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren, all of whom witnessed the incident, Lilienthal said in her claim.

"It was a pretty horrifying experience," said Adrienne L. Krikorian, Lilienthal's Encino-based attorney.

A legal claim must be filed against a city or another public entity shortly after an accident to preserve an injured party's right to file a lawsuit, Krikorian said.

Steve Fielding of Northridge, who organized the performance by 21 members of the Blurred Vision Skydiving Team, said a freak wind caused the man and woman performing a tandem jump to land in the crowd.

But he said the woman who struck Lilienthal was moving only 2 or 3 m.p.h and did not drag the spectator across the ground.

"She was just pushed over," Fielding said of Lilienthal. The sky divers "touch down at a speed that allows them to stand up in place upon landing. If it was at a speed that would cause somebody to be dragged, it would be impossible for them to stand up."

Fielding declined to identify the woman sky diver involved in the collision but said she was not injured. He said his team, made up of weekend sky-diving hobbyists, had performed at Simi Valley's Fourth of July event for the previous 14 years without an accident.

The team leader said his group's insurance, obtained through the United States Parachute Assn., will probably pay for any legitimate medical expenses stemming from the collision with Lilienthal.

Jack Gregory, a safety and training official at the 23,000-member association's headquarters in Virginia, said he was uncertain how Lilienthal's claim will be handled.

But he said sky-diving accidents involving spectators are rare. "This is the first case I can personally recall," Gregory said.

Lilienthal could not be reached for comment Thursday. But Krikorian said she also plans to file damage claims against the other sponsors of the Fourth of July event: the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, the Simi Valley Unified School District and the Rotary Club of Simi Valley.

Krikorian said her client would review their responses and those of the insurers before deciding whether to file a lawsuit.

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