Taos skier killed in avalanche identified; eyewitnesses describe rescue scene

New Mexico
Skier killed in Taos avalanche identified; witnesses describe scene

New details are emerging about a fatal avalanche at Taos Ski Valley.

Video from a skier on the scene shows rescue crews and bystanders digging trying to find the two skiers caught in the middle of it. It took crews about an hour to locate and rescue them. 

One of the skiers remains in critical condition at UNM Hospital. 

The skier who was killed in the avalanche is Matthew Zonghetti. He was a 26-year-old from Massachusetts. Zonghetti’s family spoke to CBS News Friday at their home south of Boston.

“Skiing has been a passion of Matt’s since he was four,” said Sue Zonghetti, Matt’s mom.

Sue Zonghetti described her son Matt as an “unbelievable athlete,” who played football and lacrosse in high school, but always preferred skiing.

Matt had just recently moved to Denver, having gotten a new job in the area.

Sue Zonghetti told CBS News that her son Matt and Matt’s father were in Taos for the first time, planning to stay through the weekend for a father-son ski trip.

“And the trail was open so he went down, my husband went down a different one because he’s not as good a skier and then the avalanche happened,” said Sue Zonghetti.

KRQE News 13 spoke with a skier who said he was on his way up the lift to ski down Kachina Peak when the avalanche hit Thursday. 

“That’s the closest I ever want to come to an avalanche and we were fortunate that we got to the place where they were turning people back,” Larry Crain said. 

The avalanche hit sometime between 11:35 a.m. and 11:40 a.m. on Taos Ski Valley’s highest peak, trapping Zonghetti and another skier under feet of snow. 

Hundreds of people including EMTs, ski patrol and other skiers built a probe line trying to help rescue the two men. 

The ski valley’s CEO, David Norden, said they also had an avalanche dog on scene, and one of them picked up a scent that led rescuers to one of the victims. 

One of the victims was airlifted to UNM Hospital. The other, Matthew Zonghetti, was taken to Holy Cross Hospital in Taos. He didn’t survive. 

“So sad, and I was with the young man’s dad yesterday. I just…it was very sad, a very emotional time. Our hearts just go out to him, his parents,” Norden said. 

Norden said the incident is under investigation, which he says can take a few days. 

He said his team was out early Thursday morning doing avalanche control on Kachina Peak, and shortly after determined the conditions of the mountain were okay. 

According to Norden, this is the first time they have had an avalanche happen in a ski area open to the public in 62 years. 

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