The death of a Pottstown boy who was carrying a Bible passage when he was involved in a sledding mishap this weekend in Coudersport, Pa., was a "tragic accident," the Potter County coroner ruled yesterday.
Coroner Kevin J. Dusenbury Sr. said Ian Joshua Miller, 12, died after his plastic saucer-shaped sled plowed into a ski lift tower at Ski Denton at 11:05 p.m. Friday.
The boy - a member of Boy Scout Troop 95, hosted by Cedarville United Methodist Church in North Coventry, Chester County - was pronounced dead at Charles Cole Memorial Hospital in Coudersport, three hours from Montgomery County, Dusenbury said.
"The scouting group had been coming there for years," Dusenbury said. "It's heartbreaking."
The boy's father, Ronald C. Miller, said Ian and his buddies were eager to get in an hour of sledding before bedtime.
"It was the last trip down the hill," the boy's father said. "Somehow, he veered away from the group. They found him sitting up, leaning against a pole. He had injuries to the back of his head."
Dusenbury said members of the scouting party and paramedics tried unsuccessfully to revive the boy.
"Everything possible was done to aid Ian. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family," the coroner said.
When Ronald Miller and his wife, Holly Wastler-Miller, arrived in Coudersport, they found Dusenbury waiting for them at the hospital. In his hand was a typed Bible passage on a folded piece of paper that had been in the boy's ski boot.
It was from James 1:2-4, and read, Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
"There was not a dry eye when I took that out of there," Dusenbury said. "In today's world, how many kids would have a Bible passage in their boot?"
The boy's final gift, his father said, was to be an organ donor. The family had discussed the issue, and Ian had readily agreed.
"We were driving home from the hospital, saying, 'Our son's heart could be beating in someone else now,' " Miller said.
"That's the only saving grace to a tragedy," the coroner said.
Ian was born in Phoenixville. An only child, he was encouraged to try new things, such as cooking classes and the scuba-diving certification he earned in 2008.
Starting in kindergarten, Ian attended West-Mont Christian Academy in North Coventry. At the time of his death, he was a straight-A student in the seventh grade, his father said.
Ian was goalkeeper on the school's soccer team, and played baseball. He had just been elected to student council, and played piano and saxophone with the middle school's band, his father said.
In addition, Ian played goalie in Coventry Red Storm Soccer, a youth league, and second base in the Coventry Little League. He had just been selected for the Soccer Olympic Development Program.
"He was torn between being a soccer player and joining the Naval Academy," his father said. "I have no clue where it would have gone."
Surviving, in addition to his parents, are paternal grandparents Charles and Eleanor Miller, maternal grandparents Leo and Phyllis Wastler, and aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Memorial services will be at 7 p.m. Friday at the Church of the Saviour, 651 N. Wayne Ave., Wayne. The family will greet mourners at the church after the service.
Memorial donations may be made to West-Mont Christian Academy, 873 S. Hanover St., Pottstown, Pa. 19465.