‘I was scared for my life,’ witness to Eldora shooting says
NEDERLAND, Colorado A black-clad worker at Colorado’s Eldora ski area asked other employees about their religious beliefs before shooting the resort’s general manager to death early this morning, then died a short time later several miles away in a gunbattle with a Boulder County sheriff’s deputy.Rob Linde, a spokesman for Eldora Mountain Resort, identified the dead man as Brian Mahon, the general manager at the ski area for the past five years and an employee there since 1991.The Boulder County Coroners Office has identified the gunman as Derick A. Bonestroo, 24, of Nederland.The gunman, a lift operator at the ski area this season, had been in town only a short time, several Eldora workers said.Bonestroo entered the morning meeting of lift operators in a locker room near the ski area’s base, then fired a shot through the ceiling, said Boulder County sheriff’s Cmdr. Phil West. Mahon, working in an adjacent room, burst into the locker room to see what was going on and was shot in the chest and head. He died almost instantly.”I was scared for my life – as scared as I’ve ever been,” said Fabio Sales, who was in the pump house near the Eldora base when the gunfire erupted around 7 a.m.Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said the gunman drove away from the ski area after shooting Mahon to death, and witnesses there called 911 with a description of him and his car.Sheriff’s deputy John Seifert, on patrol in the area, sped toward the resort and met Bonestroo, who was driving in the other direction, near Nederland High School. The deputy turned around and pursued him on Colorado 119, known as the Peak to Peak Highway, south of town, where Bonestroo stopped in a long, sweeping curb.West said that after stopping at the side of the road, Bonestroo leaned out the driver’s side of the car and opened fire on Seifert’s Tahoe. Seifert, a member of the department’s SWAT team, bailed out of the car with his AR-15 rifle in hand, moved to the right rear corner of the vehicle, and opened fire on the gunman, killing him.Bullet holes pierced the grille, hood and windshield of the deputy’s Tahoe, and he suffered relatively minor injuries from flying glass but was otherwise unhurt, West said. At the scene later, a cluster of gunshots pocked the side and front windows on the gunman’s gold Infiniti sedan and he lay dead behind the wheel.The trouble apparently started shortly before 7 a.m. in Nederland.Cynthia Davis, 35, awakened to a pounding on her front door about 6:50 a.m. When she opened the door, Davis was met by a tall, slender man in his early 20s with a pistol strapped to his right thigh. He was dressed entirely in black.The man wanted to know where Davis’ neighbors – who recently moved away – were. Davis said the man appeared “very agitated and angry” when she told him she didn’t know. Her former neighbors worked at the ski area before recently moving out of town.Davis said she did not immediately call the police.”I kept telling myself that it had to be a walkie-talkie or something, because it didn’t make sense why he would have a weapon,” said Davis, adding she kept staring at the gun as she talked to the man.”I thought he was a cop,” she said.A short time later, Bonestroo entered a locker room in the Eldora pump house where between 15 and 20 lift operators were in the midst of their regular morning meeting. He asked people their religious beliefs, then opened fire.Matthew Koehorst, a 21-year-old Eldora employee, said Mahon was “just unlucky – a complete fluke.””It could’ve been me next,” he said. “I was next in line. … That was the most terrifying experience of my life; I’m not gonna go through that again.”Erika Peterson, a clerk at a coffee shop who used to work for Mahon, described him as “a great guy to work for. He was never rude to me. Just a nice guy.”And Susan Sanford, the manager at the First Street Pub & Grill in Nederland, said she worked with Mahon in 2003.”He was always about the mountain,” Sanford said, adding Mahon had a wife and children.Linde, the resort spokesman, described Mahon as a “model employee.””He was always there at 6 a.m. getting the ski area up and running, and he was the last one to leave every day,” he said.””For him to step into that situation and lose his life, in some respects, really doesn’t surprise me.”The violent outburst closed the ski area and a section of Colorado 119 south of Nederland.Pelle brought in the bomb squad to examine Bonestroo’s vehicle as a precaution but said that he had no indication that there were any explosives in it.”I think the entire community at this point is shocked by a pretty violent series of events on a beautiful holiday week,” Pelle said.Pelle also said that it was too early to know what touched off the violence.”We know the ‘what,’ ” he said. “We don’t know the ‘why.’ “The Daily Camera and Associated Press contributed to this report.