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Officials identify skier who died in Mt. Bachelor tree well


(Update: Interview with Ken Brundidge’s wife, 2 adult children)

The shocked, grief-stricken family of an Oregon City man who fell head-first into a tree well and died at Mt. Bachelor Friday said he was an experienced skier and loving, fun-loving husband and father who lived his life to the fullest, until what they could only call a “freak accident.”

Kenneth Brundidge’s wife, Lauren, and two children talked with NewsChannel 21 on Sunday about the tragic news after Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies released the name of the 53-year-old victim.

Son Jacob Brundidge, 21, said they were “getting by about as best as we can.”

“We’re pretty much all devastated and in complete shock right now,” Lauren Brundidge said.

Brundidge was skiing with companions in the area west of the Sparks Lake Run, but they became separated, said sheriff’s Sgt. Nathan Garibay, the county’s emergency services manager and assistant search and rescue coordinator.

Officials at the ski resort west of Bend said it happened in an experts-only area off the Northwest chairlift.

Jacob Brundidge said he was with his father and two of his father’s friends skiing at the mountain on Saturday.

“It was going really well. We were all having a great time,” he said. “The snow was pretty epic. We went in for lunch around 11:30. Then around 12:30, we went out and just kept going. The incident happened about 1:30, 1:40. That’s when we noticed we lost him over on Northwest chair.”

Soon, they went looking for him, then when they couldn’t find him contacted ski patrol.

A short time later, Brundidge was found by another skier, who flagged down ski patrol. “Resuscitation efforts were started but were ultimately unsuccessful,” Garibay said.

Deschutes County 911 got a call from the resort around 3 p.m. to report an unresponsive skier had fallen head-first into a tree well west of the Northwest chairlift and that the ski patrol was trying to revive him with CPR.

Sheriff’s deputies, Bend and Sunriver fire department medics and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement responded to the scene. A Life Flight helicopter also was dispatched but had to turn back due to weather conditions, Garibay said.

Daughter Kaitlyn Brundidge, 24, said, “I think what’s really important for us is to just let everyone know that our dad was an expert skier. He knew what he was doing, he had a helmet on, he was doing all the right things. He was with people, he was following people.”

“This is just a freak accident that happened,” she said. “There was nothing else that he or anybody else could have done to prevent it.”

Asked what she wished to share about her husband, wife Lauren said, “He loved to hunt and fish and go camping and obviously ski.”

“He definitely lived life to the fullest,” daughter Kaitlyn added. ” Had a lot of fun, went on a lot of adventures. He loved his family more than anything. He ran his own (sewer contracting) business in Portland. He was just an amazing dad and human and husband, and he’s going to be greatly missed. We don’t really know what we’re going to do without him in our lives.”

“I think for all of us right now it just feels like we’re in some huge nightmare and we’re just ready to wake up from it,” she added. “Like we’re waiting for our dad to walk through the door.”

Garibay said, “The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office encourages skiers and snowboarders to use extreme caution in deep snow and ungroomed terrain. We encourage skiers to maintain sight of their companions at all times, give trees a wide berth and carry appropriate equipment.”

More information can be found at

John McLeod, Mt. Bachelor’s president and general manager, said in a statement Friday evening confirming the fatality: “All of us at Mt. Bachelor are heartbroken by the loss felt at the mountain today. Our deepest condolences go out to the affected families and friends.”

Tree wells are hidden cavities of deep snow that form when low-hanging branches block snowflakes from compacting around the tree trunks. Skiers or snowboarders who get close to those trees can fall in, often headfirst, and suffocate.

Mt. Bachelor, like other resorts, urges skiers and snowboarders to always go with a buddy and stay in sight of them, especially in wooded areas, due to the danger tree wells pose.

The resort has received several feet of new snow in recent days, pushing well past the 100-inch mark after a lean start to the winter.

Mt. Bachelor’s Safety Tip of the Day on its website last week said: “Tree well risk is as high as it ever gets. Always ski or ride with a friend and educate yourself on good safety practices.”

The fatal tree well incident came one day shy of a year since a Mt. Bachelor skier and snowboarder died in separate, similar incidents on March 2, 2018.

There also were two fatal tree well incidents last month at two other Oregon ski resorts, Timberline Lodge and Mt. Ashland.

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