National Guard airman dies from head injuries while snowboarding at New Jersey mall

A man serving in the Air National Guard has died after falling while snowboarding at an indoor ski park inside a New Jersey mall, officials and family members said.

Peter Matthews, 24, of Bay Shore on Long Island, New York, fell on December 8 while snowboarding at Big Snow American Dream, which is inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, his family told Newsday.

Mathews fell backwards, hit his head, lost consciousness and was having trouble breathing, his sister Sarah Mathews told the newspaper.

After CPR was performed at the mall, Mathews was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, his sister said.

Mathews was an Airman 1st Class in the Maryland Air National Guard, which he joined in 2020. Sarah Matthews said she had hoped to become a commercial airline pilot.

His sister said that Matthew was wearing a helmet and other safety equipment when he fell and had no underlying health problems that his family was aware of.

The Big Snow American Dream Meadowlands Sports Complex features an indoor skiing and snowboarding facility within the mall. It opened in 2019 and is the first indoor ski park in North America. Skiing stars including Lindsey Vonn attended its grand opening event.

In a statement, Big Snow said: “We can confirm that our ski patrol responded to a guest incident last Thursday evening. First aid was administered, and the guest was taken to hospital for further care. Our Heartfelt condolences to the family of this guest at this time.”

Benno Varghese, a friend who was with Mathews at the mall, told Newsday that Mathews suffered what at first seemed like a routine fall. Varghese said, “I saw him on the ground. I ran and he was already unconscious.”

Varghese said he and other friends who had gone to the indoor ski facility together gathered in a circle and prayed as medical personnel tried to keep Mathews alive.

US Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Galabihs, senior enlisted leader of the 175th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, said Mathews was recently awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal for his accomplishments during exercises in Eastern Europe. Mathews was mobilized with an Air Force unit to help with the exercise.

“If you had a chance to talk to him, you knew right away that he had a remarkable future and was destined for greatness,” Galabihs said in a statement.

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