AVON — Long after most people have stopped thinking about the previous ski season, Avon resident Jeff Kovacik finally returned home from his last time on the slopes.
Kovacik was severely injured and paralyzed from the neck down in a hit-and-run accident while skiing at Beaver Creek on April 8. After the accident, he spent almost two months undergoing surgery and recovering from spinal cord, head, shoulder, elbow and knee injuries at Denver Health Medical Center. After being transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver for three months of intense rehabilitation, he was able to stand again.
Kovacik was released from Craig Hospital on Aug. 28 and was welcomed back to the valley by more than 70 neighbors, local friends and well-wishers from Craig Hospital at a neighborhood barbecue celebration on Monday.
“Everyone was amazed at Jeff’s progress, hard work and determination to walk and come home again. It was a true celebration,” said friend and neighbor Laurie Adler.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office criminal investigation on the accident is still underway. According to Kovacik, a snowboarder collided with him while he was skiing underneath the Cinch Express Lift near the intersection of the Sheephorn and Centennial runs located just above the Spruce Saddle Lodge. Kovacik remembers the person who hit him saying that he would call ski patrol, and then left the scene. The snowboarder, who is described as having long, wavy brown hair and in his 20s, has yet to come forward.
So far, there have been no new leads on the case, although authorities are working with Vail Resorts to continue searching for the suspect, said Jessie Mosher, public information officer for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.
“I’m hopeful we’ll have some new leads,” she said. “It’s still an active investigation, so maybe we’ll find something this ski season.”
Jeff Kovacik, his wife Jamilya, and their daughter Katrina, said they want to thank everyone in Avon and the surrounding Vail Valley for all of their support and well wishes during the past months. They also thanked the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, the Avon mayor and Avon Police Department for all of the hard work they have put into solving the case.
The community can continue to support the family at an upcoming fundraiser for the Kovaciks. Details on the event will be announced soon.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.