Last year, we told you about the tragic death of Philadelphia-based executive Natalie Egleston in a skiing accident on Aspen Mountain. No criminal charges were filed against Dr. Virginia Chen, the New York dermatologist who ran into Egleston. But now, Chen is reportedly the target of a lawsuit filed by Egleston's family. Details and photos below.
As we've reported, Egleston's LinkedIn profile listed her as the president of Indoor Direct LLC, a marketing company. She attended Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and Cornell University. After her death, her brother Brian told us she'd recently returned to the Philadelphia area after living in San Francisco for a time and was visiting Aspen with friends on February 5, 2013, when the collision took place.
Chen is said to have merged onto the Aspen Mountain's Spar Gulch trail from another run, Copper Bowl, at a point known at the resort as Grand Junction. She subsequently hit Egleston, who'd skied down another trail, Jackpot (an expert run), and was standing in place cleaning her goggles while waiting for a friend.
Both women were wearing helmets and Chen suffered only minor injuries as a result of the collision. However, Egleston was knocked to the ground and was badly injured. She was transported off the mountain by members of the ski patrol, then raced to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead as a result of a traumatic brain injury.
The following month, 9th Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia decided not to file either a criminal recklessness or negligence accusation against Chen due in part to the fact that "there isn't much evidence at all about what happened," she told the Aspen Times. Why not? Neither Chen nor Egleston's friend could provide details about precisely what took place. In Caloia's words, "Both say all of a sudden there was a crash."
Afterward, we asked Brian his opinion about the decision not to press charges. "Most family members, including myself, have been focused on mourning my sister's death," he noted via e-mail. As a result, he continued, "I have no opinion about the charges, because I do not know all of the details. However, the district attorney and the sheriff's office have been very communicative and open with my family. I cannot definitively speak for my whole family, but I appreciate their openness, and I think that my family does as well."
He added that news of Natalie's death triggered an outpouring of grief and good will. "I estimate that over 300 people attended Natalie's funeral events on February 12 and 13," he told us. "Friends and family came from California, Oregon, Arizona, Michigan, Europe and elsewhere to attend the funeral. We are all very sad about Natalie's death. It was very unexpected and a shock to everyone."
Now, however, Egleston's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Pitkin County District Court. A new Aspen Times piece quotes the complaint as stating that Chen was skiing "wildly and out of control down the hill, ignoring the 'slow' signs posted" nearby, when she impacted with Egleston.
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The suit adds that "as the person skiing downhill, defendant Virginia Chen had the primary duty to avoid collision with any person or object below her" according to the Colorado Skier Safety Act. As such, Chen allegedly caused Egleston's death via "negligent, careless and reckless actions or inactions."
Neither Chen nor the Littleton law firm that filed the suit commented to the Times about the latest development. But clearly, Egleston's death continues to resonate more than eighteen months later.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.