Woman, 22, killed in weekend snowboard accident at Lake Tahoe
TAHOE CITY, Calif. – A 22-year-old woman was killed Saturday afternoon in a snowboard accident at Granlibakken Resort, officials have confirmed.
Rahsheka Keith, a resident of Oakland, Calif., died after crashing into a lift tower at the North Shore ski resort, said Capt. Jeff Ausnow of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, in a Monday phone interview.
The cause of death appears to be blunt force trauma, Ausnow said, but the official cause will not be known until an autopsy is performed this week in Auburn, Calif., at Placer sheriff’s headquarters.
The accident occurred when Keith used her snowboard as a sled, sitting upon the board with her feet unattached to the bindings, Ausnow said. At some point, Keith became turned around, facing uphill, with her back turned toward the bottom of the hill. She then crashed into a lift tower pole.
Keith was not wearing a helmet, Ausnow said.
“Incidents like these are always a tragedy,” Ausnow said. “Tahoe is a recreation area and people come up here to have fun, but we find, when incidents like this occur, outdoor recreation can be dangerous.”
Keith attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was involved in Rainbow Theater – a university sponsored theater troupe that emphasizes, through performance, a higher visibility and understanding of various cultures within the community.
Elisa Noemi Orellana, a classmate of Keith’s, said she and her friends are still processing their grief and are in “a state of shock.”
“Rahsheka was really poised, elegant, articulate, confident and mature,” Orellana said in a Monday afternoon phone interview. “She would always say random things that made us laugh.”
Orellana said the entire Santa Cruz community will miss Keith, as she worked in various community educational outreach capacities.
“She was a big leader in this community,” she said.
In a Monday phone interview, Ron Parsons, general manager at Granlibakken, said his staff is “very shaken up” by the incident.
“Obviously, we are really saddened by this event,” Parsons said. “It’s heartbreaking and we have reached out to the family.”
Parsons said the fatality is the first at the resort since he began working there in 1978.
It is also the third death this winter at a Lake Tahoe ski resort. Just last Wednesday, Jan. 19, Galena High School sophomore Maison T. Ortiz, 15, died after crashing into a tree while walking down a slick mountainside at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe.
On Thursday, Dec. 30, search and rescue crews found the dead body of Shawnte Marie Willis, 25, of Tahoma, in a backcountry area southwest of Alpine Meadows Ski Resort. She had been reported missing two days prior. Authorities said she crashed into a tree while snowboarding.
Granlibakken, located near Tahoe City, is a relatively small resort compared to some of the giant ski areas in Lake Tahoe, with just 10 acres of downhill terrain. It is geared toward beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, and sledding is popular there.