December 16, 2018
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New Hampshire teenager dies, another seriously injured in Sunday River sledding accident

Micky Bedell | BDN
Micky Bedell | BDN
Skiers and snowboarders hit the trails at Sunday River in Newry in March 2016. One teenager was killed and another injured in a sledding accident at the popular ski resort.

An 18-year-old New Hampshire man died and another teen was seriously injured Tuesday night when they hit a tree sledding down a Sunday River ski trail, according to authorities.

Just before 2 a.m., Oxford County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a 911 call at the Newry ski resort, where three teenagers had gone sledding on the Tempest trail, well after the mountain had closed, according to the sheriff’s department and a resort spokeswoman. Local fire departments also responded.

David Kohlhase, an 18-year-old at Portsmouth High School, died, and another 17-year-old PHS student was transported to the hospital with serious injuries after their inflatable tube sled went off the trail and hit a tree, according to Chief Deputy Hart Daley and PHS Principal Mary Lyons, who notified families of Kohlhase’s death in a letter to school families Wednesday.

Daley declined to release the details of what happened. He did not provided the condition of the teenager who was injured, or the third teen who was not hospitalized.

Sledding is prohibited at Sunday River, according to resort spokeswoman Darcy Lambert.

The National Ski Areas Association, which tallies ski and snowboarding fatalities annually, does not formally track sledding deaths, but called them “quite rare” in a 2016-2017 annual report.

A portion of Sunday River’s Tempest trail is rated a “black diamond,” an advanced rating, and another portion is a less-advanced “blue square,” Lambert said. The trail has a chairlift that runs up the left side of the trail, from the perspective of a person skiing downhill, she said.

Beyond grooming the trails, little activity takes place overnight at the ski resort, she said, and ski patrol is only on duty while the mountain is open during the day.

“It’s a very sad day,” Lambert said. “Our thoughts and energies are with the families involved.” One of the teenager’s families has a condo at the resort, she said.

The last reported death at the mountain was in March 2015, when a 35-year-old resort employee was skiing down an advanced trail and collided with a stand of trees.

In March of last year, an employee at Sugarloaf, another of the state’s largest and most popular ski areas, died when he lost his footing doing trail work and slid down a race course. His death prompted Sunday River this fall to require its staff to wear helmets on the job.

The Tempest trail was closed Wednesday morning while authorities conducted their investigation, but it has since reopened, Lambert said. That investigation is still ongoing, according to Daley.

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