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Father of 2018 Mt. Bachelor tree well victim dismayed to learn of another death

(Updated: adding video, comments from victim's father)

Skier, snowboarder suffocated in tree wells on the same day in March 2018

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The light, fluffy powder is what so many Mt. Bachelor skiers and snowboarders crave when they hit the slopes. But it also brings an increased danger of tree wells. Air pockets form in between the snowpack and branches of trees, all hidden under fresh snow. Riders can fall in the tree well and suffocate.

In March of 2018, two visitors never made it down the mountain.

Alfonso Braun, 24, of Bend and 19-year-old Nicole Panet-Raymond of Eugene both fell into tree wells and died, on the same day.

In 2020, both families filed a lawsuit against Mt. Bachelor, suing the resort for $15 million each, alleging several ways Mt. Bachelor was negligent and failed to protect them.

In each death, the lawsuit claims 11 reasons -- including failing to mark the tree wells or monitor them. Also included, is the alleged failure to adequately educate and inform visitors about tree wells and their risks.

Mt. Bachelor denies the allegations and in response lists eight reasons why each victim is at fault for their death, Including failure to educate themselves on the risks, maintain control and judge their own abilities.

Alfonso Braun's father, Eduardo, struggles to accept that defense by the resort.

"If you have four accidents on the highway, they will fix that turn, they will do something," Braun said Friday. "They will close it, they will fix it."

Braun and Panet-Raymond are not the only people who've died on the mountain in similar fashion.

The issue came tragically to light once again on New Year's Eve. Experienced mountaineer Birkan Uzun, a native of Cyprus, died after falling into a tree well at Mt. Bachelor last Friday. It was the fifth such death at Mt. Bachelor in the past 20 years.

"It hurt me more that some other kid died," said Braun. "So that's why we're doing the lawsuit, to try to make it public to take action or do something."

"And so this never happens again, because this is going to happen every year."

Mt. Bachelor currently has a safety alert on their website warning of tree well dangers. There's also a page dedicated only to tree well safety.

Eduardo Braun says his son was an experienced snowboarder and always bought a season pass.

"He was so happy. He was a very good kid -- very good kid," said Braun.

The lawsuit is stalled in court, in part due to the pandemic.

Four years later, Braun is frustrated, waiting for action on their claims.

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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.

Comments

58 Comments

      1. And of course the obligatory “it’s all Democrats” troll shows up. Do you ever tire of your constant finger pointing? As far as I can see there is no political affiliation mentioned in this article and your ASSUMPTION serves to make an ass out of you, and you alone.

  1. Disgusting lawsuits. Pure money grab. It is a mountain with conditions that change by the min. Personal responsibility with these people does not exist. Should they also sign for falling trees, as that can happen up there as well? These lawsuits do nothing but create a larger nanny state that we all have to live under.

  2. This is going to be an ongoing issue with people trying to get rich. I’ve only snowboarded a few times in the past and regardless of signage posted about dangers or not its an apparent risk you take to enjoy what you like to do. The families losses are unfortunate but a lawsuit isn’t going to bring them back.

  3. I race motocross and when I wreck and hurt myself I don’t go running to a lawyer wanting money. It’s a risk I assume when deciding to go to a track.

    Grieving isn’t fixed with money and it’s disgusting to see that people think money will solve the issues of nature. The mountain resort isn’t going to fill tree wells considering wind blowing for 10 minutes changes the land scape its never the same day to day.

  4. These families will settle for under $200k and have to give 50% of that to their lawyers. In case you want to know how the justice system works.

    1. There is zero chance of that happening. Do you realize how many people are seriously hurt on Mt. Bachelor every year? In the hundreds, if you count blown-out knees, getting run over by boarders, etc etc If Mt. B settles with any one of them, then the floodgates would open. They will fight this to the very end. That is one reason that they cannot find a judge for it. It will tie up a courtroom for months, with expert testimony. It is low priority to the court, because it does not involve justice for a person who is still alive and actually could use the money. They might settle for $20K just to save attorney’s fees, but I doubt even that will happen.

    2. Not all settle for under $200k. Some much more. 50% to their lawyers is too much. It is lower. In case you want to know how the justice system works

      1. my family is in a lawsuit right now against our bank. the lawyer will take 40% when we win. they get a lot, but it’s also pro bono unless we win.

  5. try suing the trees instead of Mount bachelor.. I feel for the people who lost their kids but it’s not Mount bachelor fault or the trees fault ..skiing is a risky business to say the least ..I’ve been avalanched twice ..I know.. and found myself upside down in a tree well one time in Jackson Hole..

    1. I found myself in a tree well here in Central Oregon but it was not anyone’s fault. I lost my balance cross country skiing and fell into a tree well. I was very lucky I had a group of friends with me who immediately pulled me out. I do not blame Mount bachelor for my falling in a tree well. It was not their fault. Perhaps I should have sued the tree for putting itself near me. Sometimes we just have to take personal accountability when we engage in risky sports.

  6. is this the same as the case of the guy who sued for spilling hot coffee on his lap? Tragic, but downhill sports are inherently very dangerous. We accept all risks when we go out and play in the mountains. Its like swimming in the ocean, you could get killed by a shark, but its highly unlikely. You can die in a plane crash, but we are all willing to take that risk to travel.

    1. You almost got your facts straight except the hot coffee incident was a women., and she was an elderly passenger, with third degree burns requiring skin grafts, who won a large settlement against McDonald’s for serving coffee well above the recommended temps.
      I seem to remember faux news and conservatives using this as an example of frivolous lawsuits……while conveniently ignoring the 60+ Frivolous cases filed by Trump that were thrown out of court .
      https://www.caoc.org/?pg=facts

  7. I hope the families find peace, and I’m so sorry for their loss. I also hope they lose their lawsuits. An operator cannot be responsible for every weather condition and/or your ability to deal with those conditions. I have no good feelings towards Powdr Corp, but you accept the risk when you strap in.

    1. I’m getting whiplash reading your posts — personal responsibility on the mountain but not when it comes to your own health (all your covid posts)?

      1. Pandemics are not all about “your own health”. You are being asked to wear a mask to protect others and keep our hospitals functioning. As it turns out, you are not the center of the universe.

  8. Using his kid to score some money. Disgusting ! Every sport comes with some kind of danger. It’s not the resorts fault for his poor judgement.

    1. That does not seem to be the situation here. These families want to create awareness and get some closure. Sadly, filing a lawsuit is about the only way for this to be accomplished in a litigious society such as ours. Heck, back in the 70s, Bill would show up at the hospital and offer you a lifetime lift ticket if you got hurt too bad. Then if you tried to sue, he would say, “pound snow” and fight until his insurers pretty much forced him to settle.

      1. “Create awareness?” For what? That a mountain has risks and weather that changes every minute? Give me a break. You don’t “create awareness” with a lawsuit. If that was actually his goal and attention he could have easily worked with Bachelor to create a campaign for more awareness and they probably would have even teamed up with him. He did not and chose this method. Gross.

        1. No, you are wrong. Powdr would never do such a thing. To do so would admit some sort of culpability and that will never happen. Thanks for not reading my post that you responded too. What I described is still the exact same way any amusement park operates. The only difference now is they all are wearing 1000 dollar suits when they come visit! BTW- You are the Gross one. Although you might like to think so, you don’t get to decide how a family finds closure. In fact, you really can’t do much can you?

        2. You are wrong. You do create public awareness with a lawsuit. Particularly when it involves safety and negligence.Not referring to this case specifically, but it is true for many many lawsuits. You actually think Bachelor would work with the public to create safer slopes. LOL

            1. Safer slopes? That is a broad term I used linking Safety with skiing (aka slopes). Not everything up there is made by nature and uncontrollable. There are PLENTY of man made (enter error) structures and “fixes” to “slopes”.

              1. If you’re calling the jumps and half-pipes ‘plenty of structures’, then yes, we’re aware of them. What does that have to do with a tree well, which is a natural phenomenon? Can we please stick to the topic at hand?

                1. How long, meaning what exact year did Bachelor put up the dangers of tree wells signs and information?

                2. I’ve probably lived a 1/3 of your lifetime, so you would know better than me if you ever went to the mountain. There has been signage every time I’ve ever been there, and I’ve accepted all their legal warnings/conditions every time I’ve purchased my season tickets. From your comments here I’m guessing you haven’t been up there a handful of times in your whole life, which makes me wonder why you care? Maybe trying to figure out if you can sue Freddies the next time their sidewalks get a little icy?

                3. pretty sure you have not skied many places outside of Oregon, right? How about other countries? Right.. thought so. Keep on luvin Flatulure. Sounds like your speed youngster.

                4. Well, you’ve run out of anything even remotely relevant to say. Thanks for coming, Boomer.

      2. Create awareness? the first thing you see on the website for Mt. Bachelor is tree well safety and awareness. If they ban snowflakes from the mtn, will there still be snow?

  9. I do not understand how skiing in a wilderness area where snow tends to drift around trees creating wells that can draw a skier in, could be Mt Bachelors fault? Skiing is inherently dangerous, rapid descent on slippery slopes. Maybe should not leave the house if you can’t assume the risks?

  10. Let it go dad, that is how you can heal. Your son died doing what he loved. Accept that fact and let yourself heal. We all take the responsibility when we ride those tress. I was in the same forest with him when he died. It rocked us all. I watched the life flight come in and land in the lot that day and I know we had lost one of our own. He would want you to let go and heal. He would never want this type of lawyering to put a blight on his life and love for the sport. Please, just drop it. I genuinely wish you the best. Pura Vida

  11. Why do people think they are entitled to sue when the person who was skiing/snowboarding should know the dangers of the sport. How is it a resort’s fault that NATURE causes these tree wells? Maybe they should educate their children on the dangers of the sport before allowing them to participate and encourage them to learn how to save themselves if this happens….or perhaps the buddy system???

  12. When a person chooses to ride/ ski the trees they face potential risk.

    All ski areas have waivers/ releases ~ releasing them from such events.

    Rule number one: use the buddy system.
    Rule number two: be prepared.
    Rule number three: take personal responsibility.

    Signing /marking tree wells~ is not a reasonable request.

    It’s a tragedy and loss ~ but litigation for $$ does not serve. Or bring back lost lives.

    1. I remember one time my sister opened up a new curling iron and was going to use it on her hair. She noticed in the warnings do not use to curl eyelashes. Evidently there was some person with no common sense who did use it on their eyelashes and burn themselves and then turned around and sued the company that makes the curling iron. Looks like we’re going to have to put warning labels on everything and anything for someone who may decide to use it in another way it should not be used or for people who will not take personal accountability. At what point does personal accountability come into play? My condolences to these families for the tragic loss of their children who died falling into tree Wells, skiing is a risky business among, among other sports. No one twists anyone’s arm to engage in risky sports. They make that choice.

  13. I would sue Powdr corp too… If the lift I was riding fell down due to bad maintenance.

    Losing a child is the most painful thing in the world, and I pray I never endure it. My heart breaks for those that do. However, a life well&lived involves risk. Skiing is fun because of the risk. We load in a car, and drive through bad conditions and pay exorbitant fees for the opportunity to taste some of that risk. The more it snows, the more we like it. We placed ourselves in harms way. When risk calls it’s marker due, we cannot look to others to pay the toll, or blame them for placing us in this position. No one held a gun to our heads. We accepted, no make that embraced the risk. We sought it out. We have no one else to blame, and I wouldn’t have it any other way

  14. We’re all dismayed by any death at our local mountain, but there’s risks involved. The reality is there’s no way to completely eliminatedl the potential for death when we ride on deep powder days, and we all know that. Everyone needs to own their decisions. This ain’t Disneyland.

    1. Isn’t there something between all personal responsibility and all corp. responsibility? Isn’t that what the legal issues would boil down to – not could they prevent any tragedy, but had/have they done enough to reduce the risk?

      1. That is exactly the question and issue at hand. How long has Bachelor had information/signage/etc available to the public on tree wells? Let’s start there.

          1. My point exactly. If these resorts, such as Bachelor are not made aware, through lawsuits unfortunately, they do not change. They do not put up signs, they do nothing. They hide. So a death in 2002 pushed them to put up signs. Another death pushes them to be more careful creating jumps. Another death pushes them to take care when chairs ice up. Won;t do it on their own I am afraid. Not changing the sport one iota. This is how it all works in the good ole land of plenty.

  15. I feel badly for these families who have lost their loved ones.

    The truth is, Nature is not your friend. It is wild, and it doesn’t care if you die.
    One minute the mountain is your friend, the next minute it’s trying to kill you.
    One minute the ocean is your friend, the next minute it’s trying to kill you.
    (So don’t turn your back to the ocean.
    All Native Oregonians know these. If you don’t then your people didn’t teach you right.

    All outdoor activities are inherently dangerous no matter how “experienced” a person might be, and even experience is no guarantee of safety.

    It is the responsibility of the parent to make sure their kids are adequately taught the dangers and safety measures that are required in order to make good judgements.
    It is the responsibility of the individual to educate themselves before attempting any outdoor activities.

    Rather than try to sue Nature (as that is what this amounts to) let this serve as a lesson on what not to assume.

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