Clean and sober at age 19, his father says Gunnar Miller was excited about his future. But a skateboarding accident cut short Miller's life this week, the Pioneer Press reports.
St. Paul police say Miller was skateboarding in the Merriam Park neighborhood Tuesday and spotted a driver he knew waiting at a stop sign. With his friend's consent, Miller held onto the side mirror and allowed the car to tow him, in a practice known as skitching.
But as FOX 9 reports, witnesses told police when the unhelmeted Miller let go of the car he fell from his skateboard, striking his head more than once on the pavement. Reports say he died of his head injuries at a hospital that night.
Marc Miller of Eagan tells the Pioneer Press his son graduated from Eastview High School in 2013 thanks in part to counselors who helped him with his drug and alcohol problems.
Miller says Gunnar had been through treatment and had 14 months of sobriety under his belt at the time of the fatal accident. He told the Pioneer Press:
"He'd totally cleaned up and it was like he was back again as our child ... He had everything ahead of him, he was really excited for his new life and was very proud of what he had done."
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FOX reports police consider Miller's death purely an accident, noting the 23-year-old driver of the car cooperated with investigators, was not ticketed, and had no alcohol in his system.
Instead, police see the accident as a warning of the dangers of skitching. KSTP posted video of St. Paul Police Sgt. Paul Paulos discussing the accident.
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Skitching, or ski hitching, may have started with adventurous souls holding onto cars on icy roads. Roller skaters and bicyclists have been known to try it but it gained particular popularity among skateboarders, especially after it was featured in a scene in the movie Back to the Future.
The website Skatepark.org lists 21 skateboarding fatalities in the U.S. during 2013 and attributes five of them to skitching.
In Australia this week a man pleaded guilty to negligent driving leading to bodily harm after his 12-year-old son lost his grip on the family's SUV while skitching and suffered head injuries that have left him in a coma.