No charge in Aspen ski fatality
Ryan Summerlin February 28, 2013
ASPEN – No charges will be filed in a collision between two skiers on Aspen Mountain that resulted in the death of one of the women Feb. 4, 9th Judicial District Attorney Sherry Caloia said Wednesday.
Her staff contemplated whether a charge was warranted against Virginia Chen, 53, of New York City, who survived the collision. There was no evidence to substantiate a charge that Chen committed criminal recklessness or negligence, Caloia said.
“There isn’t much evidence at all about what happened,” she said.
Natalie Egleston, 48, of Ardmore, Pa., died in the crash. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and died “within minutes,” Pitkin County Deputy Coroner Eric Hansen said this week.
The investigation by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office showed that Chen was skiing down the Copper Bowl trail before merging into Spar Gulch at Grand Junction. Egleston had skied down the expert Jackpot trail moments before and stopped on Spar Gulch.
Chen collided with Egleston a short distance uphill from where Bingo Slot peels off to skier’s right of Spar Gulch. Egleston was knocked to the ground by the force of the collision.
Aspen Mountain ski patrol was called to the scene at 3:46 p.m. Egleston was transported to the base of the ski area and taken by ambulance to Aspen Valley Hospital, where she later was pronounced dead.
Hansen said it is “hard to say” if Egleston suffered the brain injury from the blow in the collision or from her head striking the ground. Toxicology reports showed no signs of drugs or alcohol in her system, Hansen said. Investigators said they had no reason to suspect that Chen had been using drugs or alcohol prior to the collision. She stayed at the accident scene and tried to render aid to the victim, investigators said. Chen suffered only minor injuries.
Egleston was waiting for a male friend to finish skiing down Jackpot at the time of the collision. Neither the man nor Chen could say definitively how the crash occurred, according to Caloia.
“Both say all of a sudden there was a crash,” she said.
Egleston’s friends and family were notified of the district attorney’s decision before Caloia announced it Wednesday.
“I think they understand,” Caloia said. “They’re very torn up about it, however. They don’t know how this could happen.”