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August 14, 1996

Helmetless Rollerblader Who Suffered Brain Injury Dies

By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN

NEW YORK -- A 28-year-old in-line skater who collided with a bicyclist in Central Park on Sunday died Tuesday morning at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.

The skater, Liora Natelson of Tarzana, Calif., was being spun around on her skates by a male companion on East Drive near 96th Street at about 3:30 p.m. when she crossed into the path of the bicyclist.

Ms. Natelson, whom police described only as a "rollerblading enthusiast," was not wearing a helmet and hit her head on the asphalt pavement. Police have not identified the male companion.

"Brain death protocols were completed this morning," said Jason Stewart, a hospital spokesman. "She was removed from life support systems."

Her parents and other family members were present in the hospital when she died, at 10:36 a.m., Stewart said. The cause was massive head injuries.

After the collision between Ms. Natelson, who was visiting New York, and the bicyclist, Thomas Bugler, who lives on Mott Street in Manhattan, city officials urged in-line skaters to wear helmets. Bugler was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and suffered only a minor shoulder injury, police said.

The accident also drew attention to the increasingly heavy congestion on the roadways of Central Park, particularly on sunny weekend afternoons when skaters, bicyclists and runners are out in the thousands.

The International Association of In-line Skaters said Ms. Natelson was the 36th in-line skater to die in the United States in the last five or six years. In every accident resulting in a skater's death, the skater was not wearing a helmet, said Gil Clark, the association's executive director.

A New York City law was passed last month allowing police to issue tickets for reckless skating. Andrew Eristoff of Manhattan, the city councilman who proposed the law, said the accident offered a lesson for other bladers.

"It's a tragedy that this has happened," Eristoff said. "If there is anything good that comes out of it, I hope it will be heightened awareness for other people in the skating community that safety should be paramount."

Copyright 1996 The New York Times Company