The number of skiing deaths at Breckenridge in recent months is by far the highest at any Colorado resort; no other ski area in the state has registered more than one fatal accident over the same stretch. Moreover, this isn't a one-season phenomenon. In March, we reported that there were eight skiing-related deaths at Breckenridge during roughly a one-year period dating back to the 2015-2016 season.
The recent string of fatalities at Breckenridge began on March 1, 2016, with the death of Christopher Dutko, a Pennsylvanian who was actually working at the resort. On April 4, 2016, John Sherwood, a 43-year-old from New Jersey, died skiing on Tiger, a double-black-diamond run at the ski area. Just two days later, on April 6, 2016, snowboarder David Carr perished after crashing into a tree. And on April 27, 2016, Catie Abeyta, a student at Denver's George Washington High School, died on the weekend before closing day.
The first skier death of this season took place at Breckenridge on December 19, 2016. The victim was Kevin Pitts, a 48-year-old Longmont resident who worked in marketing for Oracle.
The next tragedy at Breckenridge began unfolding on Thursday, January 12, when Sean Haberthier, a 47-year-old from Denver, was reported missing. The following day, he was found on Lower Boneyard, an expert run at Breck not far from the Peak 8 lift.
Ricardo Cohen died on Friday, February 10, also at Breckenridge, on Volunteer, an expert run off the resort's renowned Peak 9. Cohen was wearing a helmet, but he didn't crash into trees, as is all too common in such fatalities. Instead, the Summit County coroner's office determined that Cohen, who was from Mexico, simply slammed his head too hard into the snow.
Less than two weeks later, on March 3, Tess Smith, a fifteen-year-old from Wichita, Kansas, on her first-ever skiing outing, crashed at Breck, breaking her leg. Afterward, for reasons her autopsy was unable to explain, she became unresponsive, and she died on March 6, after her organs were donated.
Why have there been so many deaths at Breckenridge as compared to other Colorado ski resorts? Has its proximity to Denver led to overcrowded slopes that make accidents of all sorts more likely? Or are there other factors unique to the resort at play? And what is Breckenridge doing to prevent more tragedies from befalling its patrons? We spent weeks seeking an interview with a Breckenridge representative in the hope of addressing these questions and others. But the only response we received was the following statement, complete with the included link, which appears to put the blame on victims.
As the safety of guests and employees is Breckenridge Ski Resort’s top priority, we’re always looking for opportunities to increase awareness of mountain safety and etiquette among our guests and employees. Among the many programs and initiatives in place, the Company has dedicated Mountain Safety staff at each mountain resort whose mission it is to educate and enforce Your Responsibility Code on the slopes. It’s important for guests to understand and obey Your Responsibility Code, to ski and snowboard within their ability levels, check their speed and maintain the proper lookout between themselves and other objects.The accident that killed Goodwin was first reported by the Summit Daily, which has consistently done outstanding work on this very sad but important subject. According to the paper, the incident took place on Springmeier, a beginner's run on Peak 8 of the resort. Here's a video showing the area.
The Breckenridge Ski Patrol reportedly contacted the Summit County Sheriff's Office at around 2:15 p.m. on Saturday.
The SCSO reveals that Goodwin was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. However, he didn't sustain a head injury. Instead, he suffered blunt force to his abdomen.
Goodwin was flown to Children's Hospital in Aurora for treatment, but his condition continued to worsen over the hours that followed. He was declared dead on Sunday.
The thirteen skiing deaths at Colorado resorts this season is the most since 2011-2012. That season, we reported that nineteen people died — a record, from what we could determine. But the Summit Daily now puts the actual total at 22.
We've reached out to Breckenridge representatives for comment about the latest death and what the resort is doing to try and prevent such fatalities in the future. When and if we hear back, we'll update this post.