Updated: Details of snowboarder’s death sketchy

Columbia County Coroner Rea Culwell said she will request medical records from the hospital.


This article has been updated since its original publication.

Details surrounding the death of a teenager at Ski Bluewood on Saturday remain hazy as the ski area continues to piece together a timeline of events.

Hunter Connor, a 14 year-old Burbank boy, died Saturday at Columbia County Hospital after a snowboarding accident.

Bluewood spokeswoman Brandy Ream said Connor fell while snowboarding and no other individuals were involved in the accident, but Bluewood has no more information regarding the cause of injury or cause of death.

Columbia County Coroner Rea Culwell, who is also the county's prosecuting attorney, initially declined to take jurisdiction of the case. She told the Union-Bulletin this morning she had reconsidered her decision and would be requesting medical records from the hospital.

The accident was reported to ski patrol, which found the boy shortly after noon. A helicopter was unable to respond due to weather, so Connor was transported to the hospital via a Columbia County ambulance.

The Tri-City Herald reported Monday in a statement attributed to Brandy Ream that an ambulance arrived at 1:45 p.m.

But Jody Ream, Bluewood general manager, said this morning that a timeline of events is still being established, and initial reports may have the ambulance arriving later than it actually did. He said an ambulance was called immediately, which is standard protocol.

“It was on site as quick as they could respond ... There were no huge delays of any sort,” he said.

A press release Monday from the Columbia County Emergency Management said the Columbia County Fire District 3 Ambulance was called at 12:48 p.m. and arrived at Bluewood at 1:24 p.m. While the ambulance was on scene, a second patient who required medical attention from a ski accident was brought to them. Both patients left Ski Bluewood in the ambulance at 1:45 p.m. and arrived at the hospital at 2:13 p.m.

Bluewood also released a statement this morning saying, “Contrary to speculation by some media reports, the care and response that Hunter received was at the highest level by members of the Bluewood Ski Patrol.”

Bluewood Ski Patrol Director Brandon McKinney, a paramedic who was involved in Saturday’s rescue, said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the incident, but said it’s typical for a rescue helicopter to be unavailable for Bluewood. The closest helicopters are located in Lewiston and La Grande, both about a 22 minute flight away, and weather conditions in those cities can be bad even when skies are clear on the mountain.

He said the typical response time for a Columbia County ambulance is 30 or 40 minutes, so getting to a hospital off the mountain can take some time.

“Any time you start going into a rural access area like Bluewood ... you start risking a little more as far as if a medical or traumatic injury occurs,” he said. “That’s kind of the nature of visiting the wilderness.”

Both Brandy and Jody Ream said any more information about the cause of death would have to come from the coroner’s office.

“It’s a tragic incident, and the focus at this point in time is for the support of the family,” said Jody Ream.

Rachel Alexander can be reached at rachelalexander@wwub.com or 509-526-8363. Luke Hegdal can be reached at lukehegdal@wwub.com or 526-8326.

This article was updated at 1:25 p.m. on Jan. 28, 2014 to reflect the following correction:

Due to a reporter's error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the cities which send helicopters to Bluewood in response to accidents. They are Lewiston and La Grande, not Hermiston and La Grande.


lycoldiva 1 year, 8 months ago

How is not a conflict of interest to be both the prosecuting attorney and coroner?


jkruchert 1 year, 8 months ago

I think it would only be a conflict of interest if she sat on a trial where she was also the coroner. I am sure in a situation like that, they call in another attorney in the matter. That's my guess, but I could be wrong.


sruley 1 year, 8 months ago

In counties with a population under 40,000, by statute, (RCW 36.16.030) the Prosecuting Attorney also serves as the County Coroner, as follows:

RCW 36.16.030

Elective county officers enumerated.

Except as provided elsewhere in this section, in every county there shall be elected from among the qualified voters of the county a county assessor, a county auditor, a county clerk, a county coroner, three county commissioners, a county prosecuting attorney, a county sheriff and a county treasurer, except that in each county with a population of less than forty thousand no coroner shall be elected and the prosecuting attorney shall be ex officio coroner. Whenever the population of a county increases to forty thousand or more, the prosecuting attorney shall continue as ex officio coroner until a coroner is elected, at the next general election at which the office of prosecuting attorney normally would be elected, and assumes office as provided in *RCW 29.04.170. In any county where the population has once attained forty thousand people and a current coroner is in office and a subsequent census indicates less than forty thousand people, the county legislative authority may maintain the office of coroner by resolution or ordinance. If the county legislative authority has not passed a resolution or enacted an ordinance to maintain the office of coroner, the elected coroner shall remain in office for the remainder of the term for which he or she was elected, but no coroner shall be elected at the next election at which that office would otherwise be filled and the prosecuting attorney shall be the ex officio coroner. In a county with a population of two hundred fifty thousand or more, the county legislative authority may replace the office of coroner with a medical examiner system and appoint a medical examiner as specified in RCW 36.24.190. A noncharter county may have five county commissioners as provided in RCW 36.32.010 and 36.32.055 through 36.32.0558.


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