A 5-year-old girl and 23-year-old man who were killed in a collision on a Wyoming ski slope on Christmas Eve both died from massive chest injuries, coroner’s officials said on Monday. Craig Shirley, 23, was snowboarding at a high rate of speed Friday afternoon at Hogadon Ski Area, a ski area south of Casper, Wyoming, when he slammed into Elise Johnson, 5, and her mother, 31-year-old Kelli Johnson, authorities said.
Elise Johnson and Shirley died of blunt force trauma. Kelli Johnson suffered a head injury and was in stable condition at a Casper hospital, Natrona County Coroner Connie Jacobson said. The double fatality at the small Hogadon ski area, one of nine ski areas in Wyoming, is described as a rare event at best.
Wyoming officials said the Johnsons and Shirley, all of Casper, Wyoming, were experienced skiers, with Kelli Johnson a member of the area’s ski patrol. Elise Johnson was the only one of the three wearing a helmet.
The Johnsons had stopped near the end of an advanced run so Kelli Johnson could help her daughter with her skis when Shirley crashed into them, said Lt. Mark Sellers of the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office. Witnesses reported that Shirley was travelling at a high speed.
Roughly 40 people die in accidents at ski resorts every year, or about four people per million skiers and snowboarders, according to a study by the ski association.
The overall rate of reported ski injuries has dropped in half since the early 1970s because of improved equipment, the use of helmets and stepped-up safety campaigns, according to association findings.