MONTREAL – A man who suffered critical injuries after falling from the roof of a moving SUV was likely attempting a dangerous stunt known as car surfing, police said Monday.
The daredevil-style of manoeuvre, which involves passengers performing stunts while riding on top of a moving vehicle, has become more and more prevalent in recent years, fuelled in part by countless videos on the Internet.
The man in the Montreal case, believed to be in his early 20s, fell from the top of the dark-coloured sports utility vehicle after losing his balance as the vehicle lurched forward once the light turned green.
Witnesses told police the man’s head struck the pavement.
He was rushed to hospital where he was listed in critical condition.
A Montreal police spokeswoman said they were attempting to identify the man.
Const. Anie Lemieux said witnesses in a car that was stopped next to the SUV at the light watched the entire incident unfold and called 911.
“As for the vehicle, which appears to be the vehicle of people he may have known, possibly friends, they fled,” Lemieux said.
“They never stopped at the scene.”
Lemieux said they are investigating the case as a hit-and-run.
Police visited nearby businesses with the hope a surveillance camera may have caught the incident early Monday and could help them identify the occupants of the vehicle.
There have been some injuries resulting from car surfing in Canada in recent years and in the United States, said Raynald Marchand of the Canada Safety Council.
“It’s not something that happens a lot,” Marchand said.
“In the United States there are about five to 10 people a year who are injured or killed surfing on top of motor vehicles – and some are treated as homicides even.”
Marchand said U.S. figures tend to indicate it’s a trend confined to the 15-19 age group, with about 70 per cent of cases involving males.
“Of course, it’s illegal everywhere,” said Marchand. “It’s often related to other forms of impairment where bad decisions are made.”
Although the phenomenon has been around for decades, even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has only ever been able to compile statistics using newspaper clippings.
In a study released last year, it found 58 reported deaths and 41 reports of non-fatal injury from 1990 through August 2008.
But Marchand said there are likely numerous cases where people suffer injuries and don’t report them as related to car surfing. What’s often also forgotten is that the driver of the vehicle can be held criminally responsible.
“The person driving the vehicle is taking a very big risk – if the person is injured or dies, they’re going to be charged,” Marchand said.