A 20-year-old college student from Barrington who died in a snowboarding accident in Minnesota is being remembered as a “wonderful, vibrant young man who embraced life with vigor.”
Derek Harms died Sunday of multiple blunt force injuries at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, according to the Anoka County medical examiner’s office.
Harms was a student at Winona State University in Winona, Minn. The Duluth Police Department was investigating his death, though the medical examiner classified it as an accident.
The accident occurred about 1:15 p.m. Sunday, while Harms was boarding with friends in the terrain park, the most difficult section of the mountain, Spirit Mountain Executive Director Brandy Ream said. It’s 450 feet long with a 100-foot drop and features numerous jumps and rails and a halfpipe, with banked snow walls made for flips and a view of Lake Superior.
When Harms didn’t join his friends at the bottom, they went back to look for him, and found him on the ground near the end of the run, Ream said.
Harms was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Duluth, but was pronounced dead.
“It’s a tragic situation,” Ream said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Harms was studying recreation, tourism and therapeutic recreation at Winona State, officials said. He was also a staff member at the outdoor activity center at Winona State, a climbing instructor and a canoe guide on the Mississippi River, according to an online obituary.
Denise McDowell, Winona’s vice president for enrollment management and student life, issued a statement asking the campus to keep Harms’ family and friends in mind.
“Losing a member of our community is a very difficult thing, and I know Derek will be missed by many,” she said. “I encourage you to gently connect with those among us who may be struggling with this loss. May we find peace and the strength to endure as we hold on to the memories of Derek’s life here at WSU.”
Counseling and support services were made available on campus.
Harms’ parents, Georgianne and Dennis Harms, posted a tribute to their son on the Davenport Family Funeral Homes and Crematory website, acknowledging his passing “with extreme sadness and heavy hearts.”
“A natural leader, Derek was a wonderful, vibrant young man who embraced life with vigor and excelled at every sport, hobby, and interest he pursued,” they wrote. “He loved all things outdoors and was a caring custodian of nature.”
A graduate of Barrington High School, Harms was a counselor for the past four summers at Camp Deerhorn in Rhinelander, Wis., where he was a certified lifeguard, horseback riding instructor and leader of Voyager expeditions to the Boundary Waters of Lake Superior. He was also renowned there for singing and playing folk music on guitar, mandolin and ukulele, according to the obituary.
“Derek’s sunny smile lit up every setting he entered,” his parents wrote. “His kindness, generosity, and infectious sense of humor will be celebrated forever.”
Visitation will be 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, with a funeral service to follow, at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, 647 Dundee Ave. in Barrington. Interment will be private. A reception is to follow in the church’s community room.