Paralympian Miranda Biletski tearful as civil trial against U of R begins
Biletski is suing university over injuries that left her quadriplegic at age of 16
On the first day of a three-week jury trial, Paralympian Miranda Biletski was brought to tears as she recalled the aftermath of the diving accident at the centre of her lawsuit against the University of Regina.
Biletski is suing the university, which she claims was negligent, over the diving incident that left her a quadriplegic at the age of 16.
As a member for Canada's national team for wheelchair rugby, she competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics.
In 2005, the then-teenager was a promising competitive swimmer.
One day, 37 days after she joined the Regina Piranhas Swim Club, she dove off of starting blocks into the university pool, struck her head on the pool bottom and fractured her spinal cord near the base of her neck.
Biletski has been waiting 10 years to take the case to the courts, having filed the lawsuit in 2007.
On the first day of the trial in Regina, Biletski testified before a judge and jury. She recalled floating face down in the water after the accident.
The judge called a recess when her testimony brought her to tears.
There were no opening statements from the University of Regina or the Regina Piranhas Swim Club on the first day of the three-week trial.
Biletski is seeking damages in the millions of dollars over the accident.
Court hears details of accident
Her lawyer Alan McIntyre told court the injuries occurred on her second attempt at a training exercise to shallow dive off of the raised starting blocks.
Biletski was five-feet-nine-inches tall and weighed 160 pounds when she tried to dive into a 1.22-metre area.
Court heard she tried to explode off the blocks to get more distance in the shallow dive.
U of R to present case next week
The University of Regina will not present its case until next week but it has previously said it operated and maintained its pool facilities in line with "generally accepted and approved practices."
It said Biletski was trained and experienced in shallow dives and voluntarily assumed any risk.
The university has filed its own suit against the Piranhas Swim Club to cover damages if liability is established.
It claims the swim club had a responsibility to make sure the pool facilities were safe for use by the swimmers, including assessing the water level and determining "whether the depth was sufficient to allow safe entry in the water from the diving blocks."
In turn, the Piranhas Swim Club's statement of defence denies that its rental contract relieved the university of any responsibility or liability.
It says the swim club had "no ability to alter the height of the diving blocks or increase the maximum depth of the water."
With files from CBC's Bonnie Allen