Officials confirm season’s fourth ski fatality at Breckenridge Ski Resort
BRECKENRIDGE — A 15-year-old girl visiting Summit County from Kansas died Sunday at Children’s Hospital in Aurora after a serious ski incident at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Friday, March 3.
Tess Smith, a sophomore at Wichita Northwest High School who was skiing for the first time, reportedly broke her leg in the Friday accident. Summit County Coroner Regan Wood confirmed Smith was not wearing a helmet at the time of the incident, but could not confirm the location on the mountain where it took place. An autopsy was scheduled for Wednesday.
The Wichita Eagle, which first reported the story, stated Smith was alert and speaking with ski patrol responders when they arrived after the crash. But things soon took a turn for the worst.
“She lost consciousness shortly after that and never woke up,” Smith’s brother Evan told the Eagle. “It’s been a pretty emotional time, but the thoughts and prayers from family and friends has helped.”
Smith was transported to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco before transfer to the Front Range. A spokeswoman for Children’s Hospital confirmed Smith’s admission Friday before being labeled legally brain-dead Sunday. Smith’s family kept her on life support through Monday so her organs could be donated.
This latest ski-related fatality marks the fourth in Summit County for the 2016-17 season — all at Vail Resorts, Inc.-owned Breckenridge Ski Resort. Four of the county’s six ski deaths last year also occurred at the Breckenridge ski area, including the last three of the season.
Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade group that represents 22 of the state’s ski areas, though none of the four Colorado Vail Resorts properties, confirmed Tuesday five others have died across its 22 member resorts this season. The latest happened Tuesday morning at Eldora Mountain Resort when a 23-year-old man died at the Boulder County ski area following a collision with a tree while snowboarding. His name has yet to be released, though the Boulder Daily Camera reported he was an airman based at Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base and was wearing a helmet.
Before that, 34-year-old Kressyda Ming, of New Mexico, died after she skied into a tree while wearing a helmet at Purgatory Resort in La Plata County on Feb. 25. A yet-identified 20-year-old man also eventually succumbed to his serious injuries at a hospital in Denver following a Feb. 19 crash at Aspen Skiing Co.-owned Buttermilk Ski Area. The man had been snowboarding without a helmet when he also slammed into a tree.
A GoFundMe page has been established in Tess Smith’s name to benefit her family. More than $17,500 had been raised by 385 people by Tuesday evening.
“There is no on like Tess,” the fundraiser page read. “[We] know she is God’s child and he will answer our prayers in his way.”
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In Eagle County, the most commonly reported dead bird has been the Wilson’s warbler, which is yellow. Dead yellow-rumped warblers have also been a common sight.