We first heard about Kazu’s Friday night car wreck today through a random article popping up on our Google reader with the headline “2 Time Championship Snowboarder Injured In Rollover Crash.” Panicked, we put in a call to Kazu’s agent Carl Harris, and he was able to give us an update that Kazu was uninjured, but by everyone’s account from the CHP officer to the EMT to the tow truck guy he’s lucky to be alive.
Highway 395 between the California beach cities and Mammoth is a long, boring desert highway that is the bane of every So Cal snowboarder’s existence. Straight up—the drive sucks, but Mammoth is so good that we drive it, some of us every weekend in the winter.
After assuring us that Kazu escaped with only a few scrapes and bruises (not even a stitch!), Carl told us what happened: Kazu had just wrapped up a two week filming trip with Burton on Friday, May 20th, he had been scheduled to leave Mammoth at 6:00 that night on a Horizon flight, that got canceled earlier in the afternoon due to maintenance issues. He was excited to get out of Mammoth and catch an early morning flight Saturday to return to Japan for a birthday surprise for his wife, luckily he had plenty of time to drive back home and still catch his flight at LAX.
Carl says he talked with Kazu at about 6:20, then at 8:00 he got a call from a paramedic saying that Kazu had been in an accident on Highway 395 South about a quarter mile north of the 395/14 split. Kazu has no memory of the accident. He lost control of his 1995 Toyota Land Cruiser rolling four or five times in the center divide, according to the CHP officer on the scene. Kazu woke up in an ambulance en route to Ridgecrest Regional Hospital in Ridgecrest, CA.
According to Carl, everything from the vehicle was ejected including board bag, luggage, skateboard, iPod—even a shoe that was on his foot. Everything out the windows except Kazu. The CHP officer said, had he not had his seat belt on, he would not have survived. Carl says, “After seeing the truck four hours after getting the call, I’m thankful there were no other passengers, as even with a seat belt on, there’s no way they would have survived. There is only one space in the truck which is where Kazu was sitting that had enough room for someone only his size could fit in after the crash. Aside from being a bit shaken up and a little sore, he’s doing fine.”
Kazu heard we called to check in on him and sent us this message from Japan: “I would like to say thank you for your concern after my car crash on Friday. I am fine with only a few cuts and scratches. Please everyone always wear your seat belt. It saved my life.” He added, “If anyone finds a white Converse on the side of the road at 395 and 14 going south from Mammoth, can you please send to me? I don’t know how it came off my foot, but it is my favorite shoe.” Nice Kazu.
Kazu had an epic winter winning the U.S. Open pipe for the second consecutive year , filming for the upcoming Burton video, and scoring the cover of TWS Japan. Expect to see plenty more of him in the upcoming volume of TWS. Wear your seatbelt kids … and watch out for the 395 if you’re headed up to Mammoth Mountain for some shred this Memorial Day Weekend.