Skico lift operator dies of injuries suffered in Jan. |

Skico lift operator dies of injuries suffered in Jan.

An Aspen Skiing Co. employee who suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident at Snowmass in late January died Thursday in a Grand Junction hospital.Ryan Patrick Gallagher, a 22-year-old from Chicago who was a first-year lift operator at the Two Creeks lift, hit a tree while skiing during a late-morning break on Jan. 23. He was not wearing a helmet and was skiing at a high rate, according to initial reports. According to Aspen Skiing Co. officials, rescuers responded quickly to the scene and found Gallagher unconscious but breathing. Ski patrol stabilized him, and he was flown to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction after a short stay at Aspen Valley Hospital.Gallagher never regained consciousness, and he died of severe brain trauma, according to Pitkin County Coroner Steve Ayers.”The word I got initially was that he might die at any time, knowing how critically injured he was,” Ayers said. “With the majority of fatal head injuries, slightly more than half die immediately, and the rest die hours, weeks, even months later.”Gallagher’s co-workers were saddened when notified of his death on Friday, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said. “This is a very sad and tragic occurrence,” Skico CEO Pat O’Donnell said in a prepared statement. “On behalf of the men and women of the Aspen Skiing Company, we offer our condolences to the Gallagher family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.”Ayers said he did not know whether a helmet could have prevented Gallagher’s death.”Nobody knows, but (helmets) prevent head injuries and head injury deaths. It’s possible that a helmet might have made a difference,” he said.

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