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Mt. Bachelor skier dies after falling into tree well; was Cypriot mountaineer on ‘7 Summits’ mission

Cyprus media report identifies mountaineer who died after falling in tree well at Mt. Bachelor
KNews
Cyprus media report identifies mountaineer who died after falling in tree well at Mt. Bachelor

(Update: Resort confirms death; Cyprus media account, Seattle firm identify skier)

Five skiers, boarders have suffocated in deep snow pockets since 2002

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A skier who died after falling into a tree well at Mt. Bachelor Friday afternoon was a noted mountaineer and outdoorsman living in Seattle who hailed from the Mediterranean island of Cyprus and was on a “Seven Summits” quest to reach the peak of each continent’s tallest mountain, the resort and online reports said.

Mt. Bachelor Ski Patrol members responded around 1:30 p.m. Friday to the Devil's Backbone run, where the 28-year-old skier had fallen into a tree well and was unresponsive after being dug out of the snow, resort officials and witnesses said.

He was brought to Mt. Bachelor’s first aid clinic, where care was transferred to Bend Fire & Rescue, which brought him to St. Charles Bend, Brand and Marketing Director Leigh Capozzi said.

“Saturday afternoon, we learned that the skier passed away,” Capozzi said in a statement emailed to NewsChannel 21. “Our entire team is heartbroken by our guest’s tragic passing and offer our deepest condolences and support to his family and friends.”

Knews, the English edition website of Kathimerini Cyprus, reported that Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar identified the skier as Birkan Uzun, after the American Embassy notified his office of his death.

Uzun, an investment consultant in Washington state, hailed from the northern part of Cyprus and was on a mission to complete the Steven Summits, climbing the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents, the news organization reported.

Last week, Uzun had written on Facebook that he had stop atop Vinson Massif in Antarctica, the first Cypriot to reach that summit, as he waved the Turkish Cypriot Flag, reaching the fifth of the seven summits on his mission.

“Our Birkan, who devoted himself to his country and nation with love, will always live in a special part of our hearts,” Tartar wrote.

Uzun worked for a Seattle firm, Madrona Venture Group, who has invested in Northwest technology startups for 25 years. The business posted a note Saturday mourning Uzun’s loss, saying, “He was incredibly curious, kind-hearted and caring, and shared that with everyone around him.”

“He loved life and was adventurous to a level that most of us just dream of,” they wrote. “He dove fully into his many passions – including software programming and innovation, Turkish Cypriot culture, and mountaineering,”

“Our prayers and hearts are with Birkan’s family and loved ones. We will miss his energy and passion around the halls of Madrona,” the posting concluded.

The wife of a Bend man who was skiing at Mt. Bachelor with his uncle on Friday told NewsChannel 21 they were flagged down by two other skiers who saw the man fall into the tree well down a run called the Devil's Backbone.

Having had avalanche training, the man said he directed others on scene to start digging methodically until they reached the skier, then began CPR in the tree well, continuing until ski patrollers arrived on scene. CPR continued, along with an AED, they said.

Uzun is the fifth skier or snowboarder to have suffocated in Mt. Bachelor tree wells over the past 20 years.

Mt. Bachelor warns visitors of tree wells and snow immersion safety and urges all to “ride with a buddy in sight.”

Tree wells are formed when snow accumulates around the base of a tree but not under the lower hanging branches, creating deep pockets of soft, unstable snow. Snow immersion suffocation can happen when a skier or boarder falls, usually head-first, into a tree well or deep, loose snow and becomes immobilized.

“The greatest number of accidents generally occur following a big storm cycle – the more fresh snow, the higher risk,” the resort warns.

A $30 million wrongful death lawsuit was filed in 2020 by the fathers of a skier and snowboarder who died in tree wells on the same day in March of 2018, alleging negligence by the resort. That lawsuit is still pending, court records show. A snowboarder died after felling head-first into a tree well in 2002 and a skier in 2019.

Author Profile Photo

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

Comments

72 Comments

  1. I fail to see how these businesses can be allowed to have unsafe conditions for people, these types of hazards would not be allowed in a normal workplace. Shut them down.

    1. While I am sorry for people losses and injuries, we now live in an extremely litigious society. No one wants to take responsibility for their own actions and instead file lawsuits willy nilly. The reality is many people ski and snowboard with wild abandon, knowing the risks. A ski resort shouldn’t have to fill in every tree well if customers are out of control. Everyone knows there is a risk just walking out your door every day. Common sense and accepting responsibility for one’s own actions is apparently nonexistent niw in America. I worried more about getting run over by out of control people on the mountain.

      1. Agreed. Also there was a physical witness to this accident. If they can’t save you, good luck with your buddy who’s 50 yards downslope. Beacon probe shovel to access northwest. It’s worked at other resorts.

    2. You’re free to head out into the trees, but you have to take the personal responsibility for yourself and your buddy. The world should not be litigated into requiring rubberized bumpers at ADA height placed around any possible dangerous situation. A mountain is an unsafe condition by definition, it’s not a Disney Park ride. Stay on the groomers if you need to be safe.

      I hope he’s okay, sending positive thoughts to his friends/fam

          1. – who looks dumber? – a person who posts something that vividly illustrates their inability to comprehend a pretty basic concept, or the person who slides in after saying, “yea”?

        1. If you fall in a tree well, I don’t get Covid. See how that works?
          I’m here for you if you need help figuring out gravity, or why the sky is blue.

            1. God you boomers are tiring dude.

              Wear your mask, keep some distance, get the damn shot, and stay home if you’re sick. That’s the entirety of it. You do what you can to keep yourself and your fellow Americans healthy, and hope for the best. Not going to bars or movie theaters or parties or stuff like that too. Basically, just be a responsible adult. Then, when a republican you know catches the disease, you can at least say you did what you could to try to not get their families/friends/co-workers sick. Basically, just try to think about someone other than yourself for a moment.

          1. Don’t get off your couch, boomer. We’ve got this. Just sit there and listen to Tucker tell you how scary the world is while you bellow at Ethel to get you some more Gold Bond medicated cream.

    3. There are warning signs literally everywhere up there. Use your brains, don’t take risks that you’re not ready to pay for! That is federal property, and not to be shut down by a business. Purchasing a lift ticket only entitles one to ride the lifts. Should we shut down everyone’s computer just because you use yours to share stupid comments??

  2. Being on the mountain (snow ski rider) one should familiarize themselves with the (rider/ skier) responsibility code. And use the buddy system.

    Mt B. has put out recent multiple warnings about the hazards & tree wells during heavy snowfalls. Sadly this is not the first or last time this will happen.

    It’s a tragedy but it’s also about taking personal responsibility.

  3. 4myopinion nailed it. Stop with all the blame. If the conditions are unsafe for your ability, don’t go out there. I was up there today and it was an absolute blast. I was there with my 10 year old son and never was I concerned for either of our lives because we stayed within our skill level. I for one would be super frustrated if a resort didn’t open because they got too much powder. Come on, for those who feel like that is the right thing to do, please go climb back into your padded bubble… lawsuits because of these accidents, and I will repeat ACCIDENTS, are a really sad get rich scheme at the mercy of a loved ones life, it really is sickening to think about. People, stop putting blame on others and take responsibility for your own actions, and this goes for EVERYTHING, not just a ski resort.

    1. I think it is skiing alone that is the big culprit. I have had very competent skier friends end up in tree wells, that were completely invisible and unpredictable after a big storm. That is inevitable. No big deal if you ski with a buddy; always, when in the trees.

  4. The signs all over the place about the tree wells is like the signs all over the place at the Ogden Wayside about keeping dogs on a leash. 50% of the population thinks “That will never happen to me” and then death comes along and these same people want to sue someone. Greed rides on the heels of death.

    1. Wrongful death lawsuits in general are about making a large organization take more steps to reduce risks or avoid what is called negligence.
      And of course, in today’s Blame Society, armchair QBs say it’s all about greed, ambulance-chasing lawyers, etc.
      And the grieving put up with those attacks, to make their case, often settled out of court for far less than the dollar figure that serves as such a lightning rod but also brings attention to their claims.

      1. If they can successfully sue a company for what nature causes, then perhaps soon they will find a way to sue nature for lightening strikes and lack of snow/rain.

      2. I’m 100% certain you could never back that claim up with facts. My opinion, as it is as valid as anyone’s, is that most of these types of lawsuits are about revenge, trying to punish the party that harmed you or your family. Secondarily, it is about money. Fixing the problem is rarely a factor. There is zero chance that Mt. Bachelor or any other ski resort is going to ‘fix’ the tree-well problem, because you cannot have a ski area without treewells, unless you fence off all skiing outside of open areas. Besides, the liability releases have held up almost 100% for ski resorts, unless blatant negligence occurred.

        1. Oh, there are plenty of facts out there about lawsuits initiating change in companies/institutions’ policies and procedures, to reduce – never eliminate, of course – risk/danger.
          But will leave to others what are opinions and what are facts.

        2. re: liability waivers have held up almost 100% – NOT TRUE. Look it up. Waivers are invalid in OR and taken on a case by case basis. No need to prove gross negligence. Ordinary can be enough

          1. I’m psyched for this lawsuit, truth be told. I strongly believe a ski resort should not be held responsible for someone falling in a tree well. It’s a function of nature. An act of God. It’s not something Powdr could possibly protect you from (no love for those jerks, btw). They provide groomers for you to semi-safely enjoy, even then conditions can be pretty treacherous. When you venture out into the trees (aka ‘fun’) you inherently accept the risk that entails. This guy was a baller who has done 5 of the 7 summits, for him to go out on a mountain is both terrible and perfect. I would prefer to die 100 times at Bach for every time I would die at St Charles hooked up to life support. Had he died on some ridiculous kicker that sent him out into the trees, or died in an avalanche where Powdr failed to make any effort to mitigate those, then I can see a lawsuit. Otherwise, there is no negligence by the mountain. Waiver or not.

      3. btw When are you going to correct the inaccurate definition of a tree well? As I said days ago, there is less snow in a tree well than the surrounding area; that is why it is called a ‘well’ duh. That is why people get buried in it, because it is a depression. Also, it can get worse if the sun gets out, because the warmth of the sun warms up the tree and the area surrounding it. Geez Barney

          1. So Barney, you just report using the information you have received rather than verifying that this information received is true? What kind of reporting is that? Rather lazy on your part certainly. What would Walter Cronkite have to say about this sort of news reporting?…. just saying but really something to think about……

            1. Yes, we report information we receive from official sources, not from random social media “experts” who have reported inaccurate information on this very sad tragedy.
              What a red herring argument.
              If we have questions, we ask them. If there are holes, we work to fill them. We do what journalists have done since long before Walter Cronkite, a fellow Unipresser (I was with UPI for 14 years), whom I respect greatly.

      4. After reading some of the comments on here after a tragedy just proves that the comment section should be shut down, everyone here is just trying to start a fight and finger point, I’m truly surprised no one blamed Biden. The comment section of KTVZ is a perfect example of what is wrong with America and the world for that matter. Very counter productive, I really hope this comment section gets the can.

        1. If allowing free speech with TOS and limits is “what’s wrong with America,” well… I respectfully disagree.
          Every tool is a weapon, every weapon is a tool. How folks use/abuse the system is the issue, not that it exists.

          1. What’s wrong with America is that instead of being a reporter at a news station Barney spends all his time playing moderator and, enjoying conversation with locals. This isn’t any more a “news” outlet than FakeBook

            1. Nope. I wrote a half-dozen stories on a busy Saturday. Proof is on the home page. This is a way, way lower priority. Which makes some regulars mad, without instant moderation. Sorry, this stuff will never be top priority.

  5. Sliding down the side of a mountain is dangerous. It’s your choice to be there and make personal decisions. I hope this young man gets a second chance.

  6. Sorry for the fella. Skiing is fun. its also somewhat dangerous. That is part of the fun. The idea of blaming any of this on the resort is ridiculous. Anyone that goes up a mountain in order to slide down it knows the risks. If they don’t, well Darwinism I suppose. I’m betting this guy knew the risks, and chose to live a life that was full and rich. It also had some risk, and he got unlucky. The only way to get rid of tree wells is to call in the loggers.

    1. Nobody that goes to an expensive ski resort does so with the deadly dangers in mind. That isn’t a thing. Of course there are risks but nobody thinks about that the morning they are heading up the hill to go skiing.

      1. They should. And I think most do. Just because you buy a ticket, the laws of physics are not suspended. Going to a ski resort (thankfully) is as sanitized as you want to make it. Some days it is bulletproof ice. Some days it is dumping snow. Most days it is somewhere in between. You can choose to take a wide groomer all the way down. You can choose to go off piste.

  7. We lost someone that was unfamiliar with the terrain. I have been skiing this area for 27 years. It’s my happy place and it’s unfortunate that this happened. We can’t take our freedoms away and it has nothing to do with the resort. It’s a mountain that gets hammered with feet of snow and not inches. RIP to a athlete just trying to make his country proud!

    1. Well said, jonasty. Even though I am pretty cautious and stay within my ability, I know that each time I head up to the mountain, that day may be my last. Living is a risk. Dying is inevitable. I am not going to wrap myself in bubblewrap and live life without any risk. All one can do is be cautious as you enjoy whatever it is you love to do. Condolences to his family and friends.

  8. “Living is a risk. Dying is inevitable” Gee, thanks for making this about you with some Jack Handy philosophy then end with condolences. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the mountain fees?

  9. I want Mount Bachelor to answer how many more people have to die before they’re held accountable. It may take time and money but those branches need to be cut up high enough to where there is no tree Wells it’s mount bachelor’s responsibility at this point.

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