Mountain biker dies in Deer Valley wreck
July 5, 2006
An Arizona man died Sunday in a mountain-biking wreck at Deer Valley Resort, authorities said, a rare fatality in a sport in which people typically cut and bruise themselves or, more seriously, break a bone if they crash.
According to the Park City Police Department, Tommy K. Crawford, from Gilbert, Ariz., died after falling on the resort’s Thieves Forest trail, described as an experts-only, single-track trail. He was 51 years old.
The Police Department said in a statement that Crawford was riding downhill, came to a steep spot and lost control of the bicycle. He went over the handlebars and hit the ground in front of the bicycle at about 2:45 p.m., the police said. Crawford was wearing a helmet but a medical crew was unable to resuscitate him at the scene of the accident.
Marty Howard, a Police Department sergeant, said Crawford and a friend were riding bicycles they rented at Silver Lake Village. The friend told the police that they were beginner to intermediate riders, Howard said.
Howard said the two passed warning signs designating the trail as an experts-only run and that safety equipment was recommended. The trail starts on the east side of Bald Mountain and winds toward Silver Lake.
"An inexperienced rider on a single track — that was above his level of riding," Howard said.
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The sergeant said Crawford did not show signs of trauma but the skin around his neck was discolored purple afterward. The friend told the medics that Crawford had previously undergone two neck surgeries, indicating that he probably suffered internal bleeding, Howard said.
The state medical examiner is investigating the death, the police said. Crawford’s death was the first mountain-biking fatality at Deer Valley since the resort introduced lift-served biking in the summer 14 years ago, said Chuck English, who directs the resort’s mountain operations.
English said Crawford had completed a few laps down the mountain before the crash, which occurred on the front side of Bald Mountain. He said mountain-bike injuries are frequently cuts, broken collarbones and broken arms.
"People fall on their bikes a lot. Biking is inherently a dangerous sport," English said. "Everybody has gone down at least one time. I know I have."
English said Crawford was riding a bicycle manufactured for downhill riding, with front and rear suspension. He said bikers usually do not ride at high speeds on the Thieves Forest trail because it is technically challenging. English called Thieves Forest a "popular trail" that has been used in state-championship downhill mountain-biking races.
"People need to make sure they’re riding within their ability level," he said.
Howard said Crawford dropped about 15 feet after he flipped over the handlebars and then probably rolled when he hit the ground. He landed on a flat dirt road, Howard said. Deer Valley’s mountain patrol arrived at the scene first and administered CPR, according to Howard.
Deer Valley has become a popular spot with mountain bikers, who board the Silver Lake Express lift at Snow Park and Wasatch Express lift, nearby Silver Lake, which takes them to the summit of Bald Mountain. On its World Wide Web site, the resort advertises 50 miles of trails. The resort has hosted a series of National Off-Road Bicycle Association events, commonly known as NORBA, and is scheduled to hold another, its tenth, July 8-9.
Deer Valley expects more than 2,000 amateur and professional riders.
The resort’s Web site describes Thieves Forest as being 1.5 miles long and recommends that bikers use pads and a downhill mountain bike. It says hiking is not recommended on the trail.
Mark Eller, the communications manager for the Boulder, Colo.-based International Mountain Bicycling Association, an advocacy group, said Crawford’s death is the first fatality he is aware of in 2006 and said he is not aware of any deaths that occurred in 2005.
He likened downhill biking to skiing, requiring lots of coordination at high speed, saying, "serious injuries can happen on a weekend-in, weekend-out basis." He said, though, that resorts are "very savvy" in posting signs identifying the difficulty of trails.
"It’s pretty rare for those to be fatal," he said. "It’s not unheard of."