Copper pond-skim fiasco could lead to felony charges for man who tried to jump crowd (with video) | AspenTimes.com

Copper pond-skim fiasco could lead to felony charges for man who tried to jump crowd (with video)

Jack Queen
Summit Daily

A bit of mayhem is always expected at Copper Mountain Resort's annual Slopesoakers pond-skimming event, but no one was prepared for one man's disastrous attempt to ski jump over a crowd of spectators Saturday afternoon.

Hayden Wright, 26, was descending a run shortly after noon when he launched into the crowd, breaking a woman's collarbone and causing several other injuries. Authorities now say they expect to charge him with felony assault.

"It was not even close," said Chris Allison, who was standing in the crowd and hit the deck as Wright flew toward him. "You'd have to be Red Gerard and not drinking to clear that."

The crash was a grim shock in the midst of an event known for its zaniness, featuring skiers and snowboarders in absurd costumes trying to skim across a water pond — often unsuccessfully.

"You expect pretty much everything — there are people going down runs in their underwear," Allison said. "But you don't expect someone to go flying into the air and land on people in the crowd."

Allison said Wright approached him before the accident, Bloody Mary in hand, and told him that he was going to try jumping the crowd. Allison and another woman who heard him were struck by the absurdity of the idea.

"We looked at each other and said, 'There's no way he's actually going to try that sort of thing, right?'" Allison recalled, reached by phone Monday.

After the encounter, Allison went to the sidelines to join the crowd, which was about a half-dozen people deep. As Wright descended, Allison realized he had meant what he'd said.

"I just hit the deck," Allison said. "When I got up everyone was all shaken. There were three to four people on the ground hurt. It was like a car wreck. Everyone was shocked."

Ski patrollers rushed to the scene and started treating people, but no one called 911, Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said. Complicating matters, the crash was reported over dispatch as a reckless driving incident, and it took lower priority than a simultaneous suicide threat in the area.

When deputies arrived on scene roughly an hour-and-a-half later, they found Wright at a ski patrol building, where several witnesses had filled out statements. They cited Wright for misdemeanor assault, not yet knowing that a woman had been seriously injured.

FitzSimons said deputies were re-interviewing victims and witnesses in light of the new information Monday. Wright is fully cooperating with the investigation, FitzSimons said.

"We feel confident that the charge should be increased to a felony, so we'll submit our report to the District Attorney's Office and ask for their support," FitzSimons said.

The crash caused a roughly 15-minute delay in Saturday's festivities. It also put a damper on the event's traditional "Best Crash" award.

"We understand that, uh, 'Best Crash' could be approached in many different ways here today," an announcer said. "Fortunately, everybody has walked out with heads held high."

All of the victims walked away on their own power, but one woman was later found to have a broken collarbone. Under Colorado law, assaults are typically elevated to felonies when a victim suffers a serious bodily injury.

"If you look at the weight of skis and their razor sharp edges, they can be like weapons," FitzSimons said.

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The woman with the broken collarbone was getting multiple X-rays and MRIs on Saturday, her boyfriend said in an email. (He did not respond to a follow-up message.) In addition to criminal penalties, Wright could also face civil damages from victims.

Wright posed for a photo before the crash holding a Bloody Mary. While they know he was drinking, investigators don't have a precise measure of how intoxicated he might have been.

"We have witnesses saying he was drinking a Bloody Mary before his run, but nobody's saying he was drinking a pitcher or anything," FitzSimons said.

FitzSimons noted that the investigation remained open Monday and encouraged witnesses to contact the Sheriff's Office at 970-423-8913 with any information.

Eli Pace and Antonio Olivero contributed reporting.

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