State’s ski fatalities rise to 12
Two men died last week after ski injuries at separate Colorado resorts, increasing the state’s winter season inbounds, ski-related fatalities to 12.
A 35-year-old man died Friday morning, March 24, at Loveland Ski Area, just east of the Eisenhower Tunnel outside of Summit County, the resort confirmed Monday. The man died just after 10:30 a.m. following an incident near the bottom of the ski area’s Lift 8. Loveland officials stated in a news release that the man was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to an eyewitness who was one of the first to discover the accident, it appeared the man had skied directly into a tree. The skier was unconscious, she said, and it was quickly apparent he had suffered serious enough injuries that he was beyond the level of treatment those who immediately came upon him could provide. She estimated ski patrol arrived after about 10 minutes, but by then it was too late.
“The guy was not moving, and had gone face-first into this tree,” said Denver resident Mary Radke. “I know CPR, and I kept saying we should help, but there was a couple people there, and they said it looked like he broke his neck on impact.”
The man, who was reportedly wearing a helmet and whose name has yet to be released, became the state’s 12th ski-related fatality of the 2016-17 season. The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the incident, and there’s been no official word on what caused his death. Messages left by the Summit Daily with the sheriff’s deputy in charge of the investigation, as well as coroner Chris Hegmann, were not returned Monday.
The incident at Loveland is also the first death at the ski area since a 71-year-old Windsor, Colorado, man died from neck and spine injuries sustained while skiing off the Patrol Bowl expert run in March 2012. Prior to that, the last death there occurred when a 14-year-old snowboarder from Nebraska suffocated in 2006, also in March, on a marked out-of-bounds ridge near the top of the resort.
Earlier in the week, a 56-year-old Florida man died after skiing at southwestern Colorado’s Wolf Creek Ski Area on Tuesday morning, March 21, becoming the state’s 11th resort fatality. Michael Black was traveling at a high rate of speed on the freshly groomed Summer Day intermediate run by the edge of the trail when he lost a ski, said Wolf Creek president and CEO Davey Pitcher.
Black, while wearing a helmet, began to uncontrollably somersault before coming to a rest when he struck a downed tree. Ski patrol tended to the man, who Pitcher said never lost consciousness while at the resort and was responsive to staff who came to his aid.
Pagosa Springs emergency responders then helped transfer Black, who suffered neck, rib and internal injuries consistent with blunt-force trauma, by fixed-wing aircraft to a Denver hospital for higher-level care. By Tuesday evening, he reportedly experienced complications from a blood clot and passed away.
“He had a second home in Pagosa Springs, and was always reaching out to people, saying good morning and being very pleasant,” said Davey. “It’s a real tragedy.”
Wolf Creek now stands at seven inbounds ski deaths in the past decade. The last fatality there occurred in January 2013 when a 70-year-old Pagosa Springs man died from multiple chest injuries after skiing into a tree. Summit County’s Breckenridge Ski Resort has had the most on-mountain deaths in Colorado this year with four.
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Emergency communication technicians didn’t follow protocol, causing 30 minutes of confusion for thousands of Garfield County residents.