Principal Paralyzed in Snowmobiling Accident


JMS Principal Jon Symonds has no feeling below his chest after suffering multiple injuries to his spine in a snowmobiling accident on Christmas Day.

Superintendent Rick Linehan said Symonds was snowmobiling on Dec. 25 at his family’s property near Brewster, Wash. when he went over a snowdrift that propelled the machine off the ground. The snowmobile hit nose down catapulting Symonds into the air and he landed headfirst. Linehan said the catapulting action caused the greatest impact. It burst the T7 vertebra in the thoracic region of the spinal column. The vertebrae protect the spinal cord, which was also severely damaged in the accident.

Following a lengthy surgery at Sacred Heart Medical Center on Dec. 27, his wife Julie posted an entry on Symond’s Caring Bridge website that she created soon after the accident.

“Jon’s surgery went well,” Julie Symonds wrote on on Dec. 28. “They put metal rods along his vertebrae with screws attaching them to the spine in the thoracic area from T2 down to T9.” The rods will stabilize the whole area to help fuse the vertebrae back together, she wrote.

Symonds was moved out of the Sacred Heart intensive care unit on Dec. 28 and transferred to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Center in Spokane on Dec. 31 where will will spend the next few weeks or more. Symonds is currently undergoing intensive physical and occupational therapy. However, his paralysis will most likely remain permanent, Linehan said.

Symonds has been principal at JMS since August 2010 although he has lived in Chewelah for over 15 years and commuted back and forth from the Bridgeport School District for many years. He enjoys many outdoor activities such as rafting, fishing, and Linehan said he doesn’t know of anything he doesn’t do outdoors. However,he said the most surprising thing about the accident is that Symonds is always a very cautious participant.

Julie Symonds created the Caring Bridge website to update family and friends with information about her husband as his situation progresses. Visit for the most current information.

“We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement during this time when it matters most,” Julie Symonds stated.

Over 150 people have commented on the website to give kind words to the Symonds family. Friends, family, students, and even community members who have never met Symonds, have left supportive messages.

“Jon, sending positive healing energies your way for strength, focus and healing during your recovery,” wrote Susan and Denny Burmeister. “You are such a highly regarded person in our community. Pulling for you.”

“We are praying daily for you, your recovery and our family. You have so touched our lives in the short time we have known you,” said Paul, Andi, Sammi and Joey Trudeau. “We believe God can make good of anything. We look forward to seeing your smiling face in Chewelah soon.”

Middle school student, Brenden Flanagan, wrote, “You need to keep that Raider pride and let us take care of you as you have always taken care of us. Don’t give up and remember that we are all there for you.”

Symonds is always a very positive person and an effective principal, Linehan said.

“Jon is valuable to this district,” he said as the community looks forward to his return.

For anyone interested in helping the district or Symonds family in any way, questions can be directed to the Chewelah School District by contacting Cindy Fullmer at the District office at 509-685-6800.

By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff

In This Photo: JMS Principal Jon Symonds