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Joseph Shematek's death means 2012 Colorado ski season tied for most lethal ever

On Sunday, Joseph Shematek, a 71 year old from Windsor, died at St. Anthony's Hospital following a skiing accident in Loveland.

By our count, he's the seventeenth person to pass away as a result of injuries on the slopes of a Colorado resort this season, tying it for the deadliest on record.

On Tuesday, the Summit Daily shared the barest of facts about what happened. According to the paper, a 71-year-old, helmet-wearing skier had an unspecified accident on an expert run at Loveland around 11:30 a.m. on Saturday. He was transported to St. Anthony's Hospital in Jefferson County, where he died on Sunday.

Employees of Clear Creek County, which encompasses Loveland Ski Area, would normally have been involved in the response to the incident, but according to a representative of the sheriff's department, the victim was transported to the Denver area via Flight for Life so quickly that he was already gone before a local ambulance crew arrived. Hence, the office never generated a report on the case that might have named the man. However, Dan Pruett, Jefferson County's assistant deputy coroner, confirms his identity. Shematek's cause of death has not been formally determined, but Pruett believes the finding will involve neck and spinal-cord injuries.

Shematek's Facebook page connects him to Shematek Consulting Services LLC, which specialized in software quality assurance testing and project management. He graduated from Hampton High School in Virginia in 1958 and subsequently attended Cal State University Dominguez Hills. And, as you can see above, his profile picture shows him having fun on a ski slope.

Unfortunately, his death from an injury at a Colorado ski resort is far less rare than usual. As our William Breathes has reported, the state's resorts tend to average about a dozen deaths every year, but that figure was reached and then surpassed in February. Using Breathes's figures, Shematek's death stands as the seventeenth, which ties the all-time record, set during the 2007-2008 ski season.

At this point, no one has able to pin down why 2012 has been so lethal for skiers. Ski Country USA spokeswoman Jennifer Rudolph told Breathes last month that deaths on the slopes "are unfortunate, but they are also isolated. There's no specific cause or trend or rhyme or reason. Skiing is inherently risky, and skiers and snowboarders need to be responsible for their own safety."

Our condolences to the Shematek family, as well as to the other victims, including Truitt Hunter of Castle Rock, a 23 year old who died at Keystone last week. His memorial service takes place today.

Follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our News archive: "Second skier death this week brings season total to eleven: On track for a record?"


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