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Sandra Yi reportingFriends and family are mourning the loss of a Park City man killed in a skiing accident earlier this week.
Jason Coles was a husband and new father. Friends say he was an experienced skier. He was even on a ski patrol. His death shows accidents can happen to even the most safety-minded skier.
Friends call Coles a true athlete. Skiing was only one of many passions in his life. Coles' close friend Tim Emery told Eyewitness News, "Jason was a powerful yet controlled skier. He always focused on safety".
That's why Cole's death on the slopes at The Canyons resort in Park City was such a shock to everyone he knew. In a written statement, Emery says his friend was skiing a groomed run, when he fell to his death over an unmarked embankment. He died from internal injuries after hitting a tree.
Cole's death is the first of Utah's ski season. Last season, 22 people died in the U.S., according to The National Ski Areas Association.
Orthopaedic trauma surgeon Thomas Higgins said, "It's part of the risk you assume with any fun, outdoor activity."
Higgins is a trauma surgeon at the University Orthopaedic Center. He says they'll treat injured skiers and snowboarders all winter. "The most common in skiers are injuries to their lower extremities, and to snowboarders are injuries to their upper extremities; but we also see multiple trauma, where you've injured everything, including your head, your neck or your spine."
Higgins, an avid skier himself, even took a bad fall once, and now wears a helmet when he hits the slopes. "I got a concussion a number of years ago, and I think that was a tipping point for me," he said.
Coles was wearing a helmet. Friends say he even carried two extra helmets because he refused to ski with anyone who wasn't wearing one.
Coles leaves behind a wife and 2-month-old daughter. He was an attorney in Park City. There is a fund set up to help Coles' wife and daughter. You can make a donation in his name at any Zions First National Bank.