PLACER COUNTY -- A Belmont father of two was killed in a ski accident Friday after hitting a tree on the final run of his Valentine's Day ski trip in Lake Tahoe, authorities said.
Lindsey Van Why, a 43-year-old safety engineer at Milpitas-based XL Construction, was skiing with a friend at the Northstar California ski resort when he was killed during the last run of the day down the Cascades Trail, Placer County sheriff's spokeswoman Dena Erwin said. His friend, who had skied ahead down the intermediate run, reported Van Why missing to resort officials after he failed to make it down the trail within a reasonable amount of time.
Emergency crews found Van Why unconscious near the trail with major head and facial wounds, and determined he had veered off the path and into a tree, Erwin said. Paramedics performed emergency rescue efforts but later pronounced him dead at the scene.
Van Why's death was the second in three days at Placer County ski resorts, following the Feb. 12 death of 18-year-old Santos Constantine Martins Bezerra, a seasonal resort employee on a work visa from Brazil. A snowshoer happened upon Bezerra's body Feb. 13 at Sugarbowl, the lift ticket on his jacket suggesting he had been there since the day before.
According to Erwin, both Van Why and Bezerra died after hitting trees on their respective trails, and neither of them were wearing helmets. Van Why had reportedly skied the Cascades Trail multiple times before, Erwin said, and neither his skill level nor inclement weather conditions are believed to be factors in the crash.
"We encourage people to use caution when skiing in wooded areas," said Erwin, who noted the county has also been seeing a rash of snowboarders getting stuck upside down in tree wells and beginning to suffocate when they couldn't get themselves out. "And you're always going to up your odds of survival if you wear a helmet."
Residents in the Belmont community created a fundraising page to help wife Robin Van Why with immediate costs and to start an educational savings account for their two young sons, Tanner and Cooper. By Wednesday afternoon, the site had raised $18,565 from 162 contributors, including neighborhood residents, childhood friends, co-workers at XL Construction, and the families of children whom he had coached at baseball.
Contributions to the memorial fund can be made online at http://www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/support-the-van-why-family/139599.