A 29-year-old veterinarian from Shrewsbury died last week after a snowboarder slammed into her as she waited for her husband at an agreed-upon meeting spot on the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming.
The snowboarder, a 16-year-old whose name was not released by authorities, is facing manslaughter charges. It is not yet known whether he will be prosecuted as a juvenile or as an adult. If convicted as an adult, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
The teenager, who suffered minor injuries, returned to his home in Maryland Saturday, investigators said.
The victim was Heather Donahue, a longtime skier who recently moved from Colorado to her native Massachusetts to complete an emergency medicine internship at the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton. She suffered massive head injuries in the crash Thursday and died Friday.
Her mother, Nancy Donahue of Chelmsford, said yesterday that her daughter's husband witnessed the crash. But her daughter, she said, ''didn't even see the kid coming.'
''She had just completed a run and was waiting for her husband, talking to some friends,' Nancy Donahue said. ''She was waiting, and this person was out of control and hit her with his snowboard.'
According to the National Ski Areas Association, 41 skiers and snowboarders died in accidents on the slopes nationwide during the 2003-04 season, up from 37 the previous season.
Captain Jim Whalen of the Teton County Sheriff's Office said deaths resulting from skiers colliding on the slopes are very rare, with most fatalities occurring when skiers or snowmobilers hit a tree or take a bad jump.
The crash involving Donahue happened shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday. Donahue was in Wyoming for the week to ski and spend time with her husband's family, her mother said.
According to witness accounts given to investigators, the snowboarder was traveling down the hill at an extremely high rate of speed when he struck Donahue near the lower portion of Laramie Bowl, an intermediate slope.
The snowboarder didn't appear to try to avoid Donahue, even though there was space to do so, the witnesses said.
The impact broke the snowboard in two and sent both Donahue and the snowboarder sliding about 30 feet down the mountain, investigators said.
Donahue immediately lost consciousness. Her spleen was operated on at a local hospital to stabilize her, and she was transported to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, where she died Friday.
A memorial service for Donahue is planned for Saturday in Meredith, N.H.
The elder of two daughters, Donahue was raised in Chelmsford and graduated from Colgate University and Colorado State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, her mother said.
She had planned to specialize in emergency medicine after completing her internship in June and had just started applying for jobs.
''She was beginning her life,' said Nancy Donahue.
-They make it sound like the snowboarder did it on purpose but i dont think anyone it stupid enough to do that. I think its bullshit thats hes getting charged with manslaughter