FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – A skier who died at China Peak on Saturday has been identified as a Santa Barbara County Firefighter.
Authorities say 33-year-old Joseph De Anda was killed after he crashed into a tree while skiing for the first time ever.
Officials at China Peak say accidents like this are extremely rare and many safety measures are put in place to keep skiers safe. However, they say, unfortunately, his injuries were too severe for him to survive.
“We feel terrible, it’s not why people come to the mountains, it’s not why he was there, it’s not why his friends we’re there,” explained Tim Cohee, a general manager of China Peak.
Around 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Fresno County Sheriff deputies responded to a report of an injured skier at China Peak. However, despite wearing a helmet, De Anda was pronounced dead at the scene.
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department confirms De Anda was one of their firefighters and had worked with the department since 2020. They say he was a paramedic and county dispatcher before that.
His friend and fellow EMT Jay Faulkenberry says they’re devastated.
“He brought life to everything, he was everyone’s best friend and this is a horrible tragedy that this happened,” said Faulkenberry.
Cohee says millions of skiers have skied at their resort over the 12 years he’s managed China Peak. He says De Anda was a novice skier and was on a course that was made for someone more advanced.
“This is only the second time in that 12 year period where we’ve had this kind of an accident, where someone has collided with an immovable object, a tree, and passes away,” Cohee said.
Faulkenberry says he’ll be missed by many.
“His whole life was coming together. He was about to marry his dream girl and had just gotten this fire job,” explained Faulkenberry.
Fresno County Sheriff’s Office officials say they are working with Santa Barbara to make sure De Anda receives the proper honors before he’s transported back home.