On December 28, forty-year-old Loveland Ski Area employee Adam Lee died from crushing chest injuries while working on the Magic Carpet, a motorized beltway used to teach kids how to ski. More than two weeks later, Erika Mackey Lee, Adam's wife, says her grief has been compounded by a lack of information from the resort about the circumstances that led to his death.
"This is someone who died at their hands," says the mother of four kids between the ages of five and eighteen, "and all they're doing is covering their tracks."
When contacted about Lee's death, Loveland Ski Area spokesman John Sellers, corresponding by email, wrote, "We do not have any additional details to provide at this time. The investigation is ongoing and Loveland Ski Area is fully cooperating with the efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration." Sellers previously put out messages of condolence over Lee's passing.
Lee is the second person to lose his life at Loveland Ski Area in less than a year. On April 28, 2017, Boulder resident Kevin Edwards died on the Loveland slopes while skiing. He was the last of fourteen people who passed away after an accident at a Colorado ski resort during the 2016-2017 season, with one of the other victims, Texas resident Kelly Huber, dying from a fall as a result of a malfunctioning lift at a ski area in Granby.
Last month, Huber's family filed a lawsuit against Ski Granby over her death in the accident, which also seriously injured her two daughters.
Thus far, neither representatives from OSHA nor the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, which is tasked with investigating ski-lift accidents in the state, have provided any specifics about the events that led to Lee's fatal injuries. But Erika says she's learned that Lee was beneath the Magic Carpet, working on its conveyor belt, when someone started it up, dragging him under it in the process.
According to Erika, the Magic Carpet is supposed to have a lock-out system that shuts it down under such circumstances, and she's got plenty of concerns about what went wrong and why, based on conversations she's had with various sources. Meanwhile, she says her questions about the incident to ski-area representatives have been met with silence.
She describes Adam as "a kind guy with a warm smile — a really good-hearted person. And Loveland was his pride. A good day for him was making a customer happy — helping a little kid go up the Magic Carpet and learn how to ski. And he'd give people the shirt off his back if they were in trouble."
As an example, Erika says, "There was a family that was locked out of their car, and Adam was the only one left. They asked if he could help and went to get some tools, and by the time they got back, the car was open. He could fix anything, no matter what it was. I never had to worry about anything."
Other problems have multiplied since Lee's death. Erika had just been hired for a new job in Georgetown, closer to the family's home in Empire, but she was subsequently told she might not be given the position — and she also went through long days of issues related to her husband's life insurance policy. In recent days, her work situation has improved, but the life insurance matters are far from resolved.
In the meantime, a YouCaring.com fundraising page set up by her landlords has raised more than $20,000, for which Erika is extremely grateful. But that amount is only about half her husband's salary for a single year, and she continues to be worried about feeding and housing her children, who are struggling with the tragedy that befell Adam. "I have four kids, but we did have five; we lost a son on Thanksgiving six years ago at twenty weeks," she reveals. "And now, with this — well, they're not taking it well. My five-year-old is angry, my twelve-year-old doesn't want to go back to school."
She adds: "I have to support these kids on my own for the rest of my life without a guide. This is a nightmare I can't wake up from — and no one will tell me anything."
Below, read a eulogy in the form of a letter written about Adam Lee by his former employers at Gillette Brothers, a business in Michigan, at the request of Erika, who was too overwhelmed to pen one herself. It offers more insight into a man who lost his life far too soon.
All of us at Gillette Brothers are saddened by this tragic accident causing Adams death. He has been taken from our earth, and your family far too soon.
As an employee, Adam was outstanding. We liked him the first day we met him. That was one of Adam's greatest gifts, he had a likability that stood out. It was also because Adam strives to make everyone happy; even in his dark days, he tried so hard to make others smile. In 2013, when he came to our company, he was one of our most complimented employees, going above and beyond what was asked of him. Again, a good day for Adam was getting a customer to feel good about the job he was doing. Even if it was outside the realm of his responsibilities. He also had the same type of compassion inside the company. He wanted everyone to be friends, he enjoyed good conversations and making others laugh. He never stopped trying to make a friend, even if it was the new guy, that couldn’t keep up with the way Adam worked.
Maybe this was sometimes his biggest challenges, Adam sometimes forgot to think about Adam.
He lived for his family. There was never a day where he didn’t mention his children or you. He mourned his son hard. He believed there was a higher power to heal that pain, and honestly, I admired the strength he had discussing how your family coped with grief unselfishly.
Sometimes I wonder why people are taken from us to soon. Why we are left with big voids? I don’t know why, but I feel like Adam would be saying, "It’s going to be okay, everyone, don’t stop living because I’m gone." He knew this type of grief and I feel like he’d be telling us to keep smiling, and finding joy in others smiling.
He once attended a party for my daughter, her first birthday, your whole family did. And I’ll never forget how generous your family gave and how grateful Adam was to be there. All he cared about was how much joy his kids found in being at a one year olds birthday party! He never stopped thanking us for inviting his family, his family made him proud.
He lived and loved his family more than words can ever express, and I think that’s why I hurt for you so badly. That’s a huge heart to lose, and I know it’ll take time for you to heal.
He never complained. He enjoyed working so much, and it was what gave him the ultimate satisfaction. To do a good job, I think maybe, that is what took him. He was doing what he loved doing, fixing, repairing and working his heart out, to get something done right.
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Erika, I’m truly sorry for your loss. Your family has been in our thoughts. I hope you know Adam was one of the best, and you’ll forever have the best parts of him in the children you share together.
The sadness of losing Adam just after Christmas may feel like "the holidays" will only become a time to grieve. I hope we can help you see that Adam was taken during this time because he was a man of perpetual giving, he never stopped giving of himself. If God has taken Adam during this time to allow him to finally rest, after giving of himself, then instead of mourning these times, try to see that the greatest gift he gave you is the love you shared and memories that you made together. During the time we give the most of ourselves Adam has now been taken home, and someday you’ll meet again.
Katie and Gillette Brothers