California-born Andrew Garcia, a member of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, is the tenth person to die following an accident at a Colorado ski area during the 2016-2017 season. He passed away several days after a crash while snowboarding at Buttermilk, an Aspen Skiing Company resort.
Garcia's death took place on February 23, and he was laid to rest last week in Dinuba, California, where he played baseball for the local high school. That the tragedy wasn't reported until afterward highlights the dubious way in which skiing deaths at Colorado resorts are tracked.
On March 10, in a post that focused on eight Breckenridge ski area-related deaths in approximately one year, including four in the 2016-2017 season, we noted that figuring out exactly how many people die as a result of accidents at Colorado resorts each year is tricky. The State of Colorado doesn't monitor such statistics, leaving it to industry groups such as Colorado Ski Country USA to do so.
For our item, Chris Linsmayer, a spokesperson for CSCUSA, which represents 22 resorts in the state, told us that by the group's calculations, five people had died at ski areas that are part of its association during the 2016-2017 season up until that time.
The victims are San Antonio mom Kelly Huber, age forty, who fell to her death from Granby Ranch's Quick Draw Express ski lift on December 29, 2016; Alicyn Mitcham, a seventeen-year-old from Colmesneil, Texas, who died after crashing into a tree while skiing at Winter Park Resort on February 15; Kressyda Ming, a New Mexico mother of five, whose death at Purgatory, in southwestern Colorado not far from Durango, took place on February 25; Tien Tran, a Buckley airman from Hawaii, killed while snowboarding at Eldora; and a fifth person, for whom death details are unknown at present.
Additionally, Linsmayer revealed that the CSCUSA total had not yet decided to include a possible sixth death at a member ski area, involving an unidentified twenty-year-old man who died in Denver from injuries suffered during a February 19 accident at Buttermilk, according to the Vail Daily. CSCUSA wasn't counting that reported casualty, he maintained, because the organization had been unable to confirm it.
Shortly thereafter, the Pitkin County coroner's office told the Aspen Times that the person who'd died following the Buttermilk crash was Garcia. The paper points out that he actually succumbed to his injuries, which included skull and vertebrae fractures, at a hospital in Grand Junction. He had been boarding on an unidentified green run at Buttermilk and wasn't wearing a helmet at the time of his crash, the Times adds.
More information about Garcia can be found at a GoFundMe page created prior to his passing. The introduction reads:
Dynamite, Dynamite, Dynamite. Check your sectors. PFC Andrew Garcia, has been seriously injured in a snowboarding accident in Aspen, Co. Andrew was enjoying his weekend away from FT Sill, Ok when he lost control and slid off the marked course. The accident has resulted in 90 percent brain damage and tremendous swelling. The family, mom, dad and four siblings, all dropped everything in California to be with Andrew. Any assistance with their day-to-day expenses will be grateful. Andrew was born in Clovis California on August 24 1996. He went to Dinuba High School, where he played baseball and graduated in 2014. He completed basic training at Ft Jackson, SC and AIT at Ft. Gordon, GA, where he completed training for 25N Nodal Systems Operator. He is currently assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade. He arrived at 31st ADA Brigade on Sept 2016.
The page's most recent update, from Garcia's brother, thanked donors for their support of Andrew and his family and offered details about the funeral, held on March 8 at a Catholic church in Dinuba.
At this writing, just over $4,300 has been pledged toward a goal of $5,000. Click for more information.
Also mourning Garcia's death was the Dinuba High School baseball team, which posted the following on Facebook:
It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of one of our Emperors, Andrew Garcia. We want to give our condolences to the Garcia family. Andrew graduated in 2014 and was a valuable piece in our season where he pitched in the Valley Championship game. Please help support the family in their time of need. RIP Andrew Garcia.
Garcia's death means that the 2016-2017 ski season is deadlier than its predecessor. There were nine ski-area related deaths in 2015-2016.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.