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Ward recovering from his injuries

Sarah S. Chung

Following surgery, Aspenite Casey Ward is reportedly on the mend in the wake of a snowmobile accident Monday in Yellowstone National Park that killed his companion.

Ward, a junior at the University of Colorado, was airlifted to a nearby hospital in Idaho Falls after being thrown from a snowmobile driven by a CU teammate.

He remained in serious condition at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center Tuesday afternoon. Ward suffered a broken jaw and leg in the accident.

The driver of the snowmobile, CU freshman Lucie Hanusova, was pronounced dead at the scene from massive head injuries. The pair had been riding double on the machine when Hanusova lost control and crashed into a tree, according to reports.

According to a hospital spokeswoman, Ward has successfully emerged from surgery for his fractured jaw and femur, but was still being held in the Intensive Care Unit for observation yesterday.

Relaying updates from CU ski team coach Richard Rokos, CU media director David Plati said that Ward suffered a severe concussion, but had briefly regained consciousness after surgery. He was sedated again after waking but “doctors say the prognosis is very good,” Plati said.

Ward and Hanusova, members of the CU nordic ski team, were snowmobiling with 10 or 11 other members of the team, according to Plati. The group had rented snowmobiles after a training session for upcoming races at the Utah Invitational, scheduled this weekend at Park City.

Preliminary findings from a Yellowstone Park investigation show that Hanusova was not speeding and there was no alcohol involved, said park spokeswoman Cheryl Matthews. Both Hanusova and Ward were wearing helmets and the snowmobile itself was not a defective vehicle, she said.

According to Matthews, several team members witnessed Hanusova’s snowmobile drifting to the left of a park road. When she failed to correct the drift, the machine went down a steep embankment into a group of trees. Park roads were in good condition and the stretch of road they were traveling on was straight and open, Matthews said.

One team member followed Hanusova and Ward’s vehicle to check on their condition. Realizing the severity of the accident, he immediately notified park officials. The crash occurred at about 12:30 p.m.

Most park rangers are certified emergency medical personnel, noted Matthews, and Hanusova received cardiopulmonary resuscitation until 1:15 p.m. before she was pronounced dead at the scene. Ward was stabilized and then airlifted to the Idaho hospital.

The park posts a 45 mph speed limit on snowmobiles, requires that all drivers have a valid driver’s license, and does not allow vehicles to drive off park roads.

“Accidents happen when you have the number of people you do coming to the park,” Matthews said. “There were no fatalities last year, but snowmobiling can be a dangerous sport despite our strident safety policies.”

Ward, 22, was born and raised in Aspen and raced competitively in nordic skiing throughout middle school and high school. He competed in the Junior Olympics several times while attending Aspen High School.


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