City backs park worker

A man in the crosshairs of a lawsuit regarding a fatal sledding accident in Duncan Woods three years ago received some welcome news from the City of Grand Haven this week.
Alex Doty
Jan 9, 2013


“Unfortunately, it currently appears as if there is no insurance covering (Robert) DeHare,” City Manager Pat McGinnis said. “Therefore, the Grand Haven City Council has retained the city's attorneys to defend him against this meritless lawsuit.”

DeHare, 71, serves as a part-time maintenance worker for Duncan Memorial Park. He was served a summons late last month naming him as the defendant in a new lawsuit regarding the death of 11-year-old Chance Nash.

“It speaks volumes for the community we’re living in and it speaks volumes of the city management,” DeHare said of the legal help.

Chance Nash died on New Year's Day 2010 after he hit a dead branch while sledding a day earlier in a wooded area of the park. The Nunica boy suffered abdominal injuries, which caused internal bleeding.

The lawsuit against DeHare asks for more than $25,000 in damages. It claims negligence by DeHare in allowing sledding at the park and for not removing dead branches from commonly used sledding areas.

“Someone who doesn’t know me or doesn’t understand the woods would think that I killed that kid,” DeHare said.

DeHare said that he has received support from many people in the community.

“In church, I have had a half-dozen people approach me,” the Grand Haven Township man said. “I have had a lot of words of encouragement.”

McGinnis said that while the city sympathizes with the Nash family, he questioned whether the lawsuits were allowing them to heal from the boy's death.

“His untimely death resulted in a loss that is unimaginably difficult for his parents, siblings and extended family,” McGinnis said. “However, in continuing to pursue lawsuits seeking to blame others for that incident, the lawyer is only exacerbating that pain.”

Ottawa County Judge Jon Hulsing dismissed two previous lawsuits filed by Grand Rapids attorney John Tallman for the Nash family. One was filed against the Duncan Park Trust and its trustees, and the other against the park trustees and the city.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.



It is a terrible thing but blaming the park because you chose to take a risk will just ruin it for everyone else afterwards


I am so saddened by the situation and I really feel for Chase's family. However, I am very impressed by the city stepping up and doing what is right by providing representation for the groundskeeper. While the situation is sad for all, I do not believe there is any way that Mr. DeHare is responsible.

I admit that it does give me pause about bringing my kids sledding at Duncan Woods (since it is not technically an official sledding hill) but I hope this whole situation does not eventually lead to the park being closed to sledding. It is valuable part of the whole Grand Haven experience . . . part of what makes Grand Haven a great place to live.


The young man was not sledding in the normal place that others use. He chose to sled
down a gully that was not being used, and had not been used by anyone else.


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