Mount Ashland staff, guests react to ski patrol accidental death

Skiiers and snowboarders ride down Mount Ashland (Jennevieve Fong / News 10)

Mount Ashland staff members are mourning the loss of one of their own this weekend, after a member of their ski patrol died Saturday. Officials identified the victim as 23-year-old Ashland resident Jonathan Patrick Likeke Walker Sunday morning.

Officials said Walker died Saturday afternoon, after colliding with a tree well while skiing on the south side of the mountain outside of ski area boundaries.

Related | Member of Mt. Ashland Ski Patrol hits tree, dies in back country

Mount Ashland officials described Walker as "one of their brightest and best ski patrollers." General Manager Hiram Towle released a statement which said, "His drive and determination to be the best, no matter what the challenge, was an inspiration to us all. He had a thirst for fun and adventure unlike anyone I have known. With his smile and charm, you simply couldn't have a bad day with Johnny around."

Despite the tragic accident, Mount Ashland continued their operations with one of their busiest days of the season.

"It just shows that they are really dedicated to the safety and protection of all the people that come out here from all over," Ashland resident Cian Fernandez said. "It's just a good sign that you know nothing stopped."

"Considering this is the first time like 20-something years, I think that's what they said, It's gonna happen, but they kind of have a job here to do and they're just here to do it," Ashland resident Bridger Foltz said. "It just kind of shows how determined they already get their job done."

Skiiers and snowboarders said Walker and other ski patrol members are critical to their safety on the mountain.

"They help groom the runs, they keep it from like being to the point to where people falling don't actually hurt themselves," Foltz said. "They also have clear out the debris in the tree, so we don't fall in tree holes and what not."

Guests said they are using this incident as an important safety lesson to stay within the marked routes.

"It's smart to stay in the populated areas," Fernandez said. "You don't want to get stuck in the trees or no one will see you and you'll be stuck there for hours."

The Jackson County medical examiner's office is investigating the cause and manner of death. While Walker's original autopsy was set for Sunday, it has been rescheduled until Monday.

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