Skier dies in accident at Kirkwood
A 15-year-old girl died in a skiing accident Tuesday at Kirkwood Mountain Resort.
Jennifer Jean Carwiled of Humble, Texas, who was described as an intermediate-level skier, was in the gully between Chairs 5 and 6 with her family when she lost control and struck a tree. She was not wearing a helmet.
“People riding the chair who witnessed the accident said she veered off the groomed trail out of control and that is when she struck the tree,” said Kirkwood spokeswoman Nicole Belt.
Witnesses on the lift alerted ski patrollers to the accident once they reached the top. Patrollers were on the scene within three minutes and began resuscitation en route to the medial clinic at Kirkwood.
“(Ski patrol) made an effort to revive her on the sled ride down to the clinic,” Belt said. “They again tried to revive her at the clinic and those attempts were unsuccessful.”
Alpine County Sheriff’s Detective Tom Magel said that the victim hit the tree at a high speed, causing severe trauma.
“In this case a helmet would not have been a lifesaver,” Magel said. “It was head and neck injuries, and it killed her instantly. She never knew what hit her.”
Belt said the first Kirkwood fatality since April 4, 1999 serves as a reminder of the great risk involved with skiing and snowboarding.
“Kirkwood is really sympathetic with the family, and basically everyone who skis and snowboards knows there is a risk involved in the sport and even though it is uncommon it is very unfortunate when events like this happen,” Belt said.
The National Ski Areas Association reported that there was an average of 33 fatalities on the slopes nationwide between 1984 and 1998. Persons in their late teens and 20s accounted for 70 percent of those deaths. Most are better than average skiers who are negotiating the periphery of intermediate slopes.
“Generally speaking its more advanced riders who are skiing along the perimeter of a trail and they catch an edge,” said Stacy Gardner, spokeswoman for the NSAA. “If you are on the periphery of the trail you have less room for error. (Advanced skiers) let their guard down so to speak and the don’t pay as much attention as they would on more advanced terrain.”
Gardner said that wearing a helmet may increase chances of surviving a collision, but stresses that responsible skiing is the most important factor to ensure safety on the slopes.
“It is always good to wear a helmet but it is more important what is in your head than what is on your head,” Gardner said.
The Kirkwood fatality is the first in the Tahoe area since Feb. 21 when North Shore residents Bryan Richmond and Brendan Allan were killed in an avalanche on the backside of Squaw Valley USA’s KT-22 peak.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.