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Grisly accident on Mammoth Mountain

March 29, 2011

It was horrific, in every sense of the word.

A 43-year-old woman snowboarder crashed into the side of a snowcat last week at Mammoth Mountain, losing a leg when she was entangled in the spinning tiller behind the cat.

"Her leg was gone!" said a startled employee at the ski area, who asked for anonymity until investigators could complete their work.

Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis, a season pass holder from the Saugus neighborhood of Santa Clarita, was immediately airlifted to a Reno hospital.

She also suffered facial lacerations and other major injuries, including a broken femur and tibia on her other leg.

The accident occurred at 3:36 p.m., Friday, March 25, on Mambo, a popular intermediate ski trail that ends at Chair 2/Stump Alley Express. Her husband Bruno waited there for her to complete her last run of the day.

According to sources at Mammoth Mountain, the driver of the snowcat was a senior operations staffer. He was on his way to rescue a broken-down snowmobile in the old "Boneyard" section of the ski area. Driving on skier's left, he turned left into the Boneyard, saw a flash of black, either on his left or in the driver's side mirror.

Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis collided with the snowcat and became entangled in the back track and the tiller – a spinning part of the cat that is designed to break up ice. The tines spin at about 1,200 rpms.

Ski Patrol and other first responders used a large wrench – the so-called jaws of life – to get her from under the machine, while emergency vehicles gathered in the parking lot. Paramedics staunched as much bleeding as they could, and brought her to Mammoth Hospital, where she was immediately airlifted out.

There was one eyewitness to the accident.

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