HUNTER — A 22-year-old man died from injuries he sustained in a skiing accident Saturday, marking the third fatality at Hunter Mountain in 2019.
Robert Vrablik of Florham, New Jersey, was injured while skiing on Twilight Trail around 3 p.m. Saturday. He was pronounced dead at 7:18 p.m. after he was airlifted by a medical helicopter to Albany Medical Center.
“He was skiing with his sister and a friend when he lost control and fell forward onto his chest area,” state police Public Information Officer Steven Nevel said.
Vrablik was not wearing a helmet and was considered to be an expert skier, Nevel said.
The New Jersey man was responsive while he was taken to Hunter’s first-aid center, Nevel said.
“The preliminary cause of death was a cardiac contusion,” Nevel said.
Brendan Brown-McCue, 27, of Herkimer, also died in a skiing accident on Twilight Trail on Jan. 19.
Brown-McCue lost control and hit a rock, according to Greene County Sheriff’s Investigator Adam Brainard.
Brown-McCue died of severe chest trauma, Greene County Coroner Richard Vigilo said.
Two weeks later, on Feb. 2, Edward Chu, 24, of Warren, New Jersey, died in a skiing accident on the trail Rip’s Return. Both Rip’s Return and Twilight are part of Hunter North, a $9 million expansion that opened Dec. 24. The expansion includes eight trails and a six-person high-speed detachable lift.
Both Brown-McCue and Chu were wearing helmets, police said.
Hunter Mountain officials do not think the trails are to blame, Hunter Mountain Director of Marketing and Communications Katie O’Connor said.
“Anytime there is an incident, whether it results in an injury or death, we do a thorough and rigorous investigation,” she said. “No evidence pointed to the trail configuration being a factor.”
Rip’s Return is rated a Blue Square trail, which means it is an intermediate level trail with a slope of 25 to 40 percent, according to outdoortechnology.com.
Twilight is a Blue Square/Black Diamond, meaning it is a "blue-black" trail that is more difficult than a blue run but easier than a black run, according to ThoughtCo.com, a slope rating website.
There were 37 reported fatalities nationwide from skiing and snowboarding accidents during the 2017-18 season, according to the most recent data compiled by the National Ski Area Association.
The fatalities dropped 19 percent from the previous year, according to the site.
From 2008-2018, the average annual number of fatalities was 38.
“A skier or snowboarder’s chance of dying from a sports-related injury is less than 0.69 per million,” association Director of Marketing and Communications Adrienne Saia Isaac said.
In New York, all ski resorts must report fatalities within 24 hours to the Department of Labor, Ski Areas of New York President Scott Brandi said.
Issac encouraged all skiers to put safety first when hitting the slopes.
“To stay safe on the slope, you need to be aware of your surroundings,” Isacc said, adding that she was not commenting on Saturday’s tragedy in particular. “Skiers should keep safety at the forefront of their minds.”
To view tips on how to increase your safety on the slopes, visit http://www.nsaa.org/safety-programs/responsibility-code/