Vacation ends in tragedy | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Vacation ends in tragedy

Christina Proctor

Autopsy results on U.S. Rep. Sonny Bono revealed the 62-year-old

died of massive head injuries after running into a tree while skiing on

the Nevada side of Heavenly Ski Resort Monday.

Bono was at the resort with his wife, Mary Whitaker, and their two children,

Chesare, 9, and Chianna, 6. Bono and his family had been vacationing in

South Lake Tahoe and were staying at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

Three hours after separating from her husband at the top of the mountain,

Whitaker reported him missing to the resorts’ ski patrol around 4:30 p.m.

According to authorities, the family started off Monday at the Boulder

Lodge. They were skiing together until Whitaker stopped near the top of

Orion’s Run, an upper-level intermediate slope, to help her daughter, who

had fallen. Bono skied on ahead. Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said

Whitaker, who classified Bono as an advanced skier, didn’t become concerned

until much later, believing he had decided to ski on his own. When the lifts

started to shut down she got worried.

After conducting a search of the lodges and lift areas, 15 members of

Heavenly’s ski patrol set out on the slopes at 6 p.m. Bono was located 25

feet off the groomed trail in the trees east of Orion’s run around 6:50

p.m.

Tree skiing is still prohibited at the resort at this time. Skiing in

some tree sections, including those on Orion’s run, is permitted when there

is enough of a snow base to cover all obstacles. At the time of the accident

the average snow depth on the run was listed as 2 to 5 feet with 7 inches

of new snow in the last 24 hours.

“He left the groomed trail, went 150 feet and struck the tree,”

Pierini announced at a Tuesday press conference. “Death was immediate

upon impact.”

Pierini said it is estimated that Bono was traveling between 20 to 30

mph upon impact. He said although toxicology reports won’t be complete for

another three weeks there were no indications that Bono was under the influence

of any drugs or alcohol. Pierini described the death as a tragic accident.

Investigators said that Bono’s equipment was unscratched. He was still

wearing his skis, Head 24 x Cybers, and his ski poles were still in his

hands when he was found, leading investigators to believe that the full

force of the impact was on his head.

Pierini said it would have been difficult for skiers on the main trail

to see Bono because the trail he took into the trees was lower, with snow

piled higher around the trees, and some snow had settled on top of him after

the accident.

Bono’s wife and children left Stateline for the Reno/Tahoe International

airport Tuesday morning.

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