Mansfield native killed in New Mexico avalanche

TAOS, N.M. (AP/WHDH) — A Massachusetts man died after being pulled from snow that crashed down a mountainside during an avalanche at a New Mexico ski resort, a hospital official said.

The man was identified by Mansfield Superintendent Teresa Murphy as Matt Zonghetti, a former lacrosse and football standout at Mansfield High School.

In a statement, Murphy said, “Matt Zonghetti was an outstanding Mansfield High School student-athlete and citizen, We are proud to consider him one of our own. His death is a tragic loss and our school community is heartbroken.”

Zonghetti had been taken to Holy Cross Medical Center in Taos, but CEO Bill Patten said he couldn’t provide any specifics involving his injuries.

Taos Ski Valley has said two people were pulled from the snow Thursday after a 20-minute rescue effort.

Another victim remained in critical condition Friday, University of New Mexico Hospital spokeswoman Cindy Foster in Albuquerque said. She said she couldn’t release any additional information.

People search for victims after an avalanche buried multiple people near the highest peak of Taos Ski Valley, one of the biggest resorts in New Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019. The avalanche rushed down the mountainside of the New Mexico ski resort on Thursday, injuring at least a few people who were pulled from the snow after a roughly 20-minute rescue effort, a resort spokesman said. (Morgan Timms/Taos News via AP)

The avalanche near the highest peak of Taos Ski Valley initially spurred fears among authorities that more victims might be buried on the mountain. However, witnesses said they had not seen any other people on the slope when the slide began.

The resort planned an investigation to determine what triggered the avalanche.

The avalanche struck a stretch of mountain known as the K3 chute, where expert skiers who ride a lift to Kachina Peak can dart down a partially rock-lined run.

In a statement, Taos Ski Valley said avalanche mitigation work had been taking place throughout the season and just hours earlier in the area where the avalanche occurred.

Taos Ski Valley is located 124 miles (151 kilometers) northeast of Albuquerque.

Its terrain covers a 1,200-acre (5-square-kilometer) area of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Kachina Peak is a nearly 12,500-foot (3,810-meter) summit and has one the highest chairlifts in North America.

A handful of deadly avalanches have occurred in Taos Ski Valley over the past 50 years some distance from the main trails.

The most recent death was in 1996, when a popular restaurant owner in Taos was killed while back-country skiing in Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area, outside Taos Ski Valley, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

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