Erik Roner, an extreme sports star who regularly appeared on MTV's Nitro Circus show, has died while skydiving northern California, authorities have said. The professional skier and base jumper was killed after his parachute got caught in a tree at a golf course in Squaw Valley.
Roner, 39, of Tahoe City, California, was performing as part of a four-man skydiving team for the opening ceremony of a charity golf tournament. While trying to land, Roner struck and became entangled in a tree high above the ground. Authorities were unable to remove him from the tree in time and despite the best efforts of people on the ground to reach Roner, the athlete was pronounced dead at the scene. His teammates all landed safely.
A friend of Roner's, Roy Tuscany, witnessed the collision and said that people desperately dispersed to search for ladders in an effort to reach the sportsman. At one point, people tried to form a human ladder by standing on one another's shoulders in an attempt to rescue Roner.
"He hit a tree ... he hit a tree so hard. I don't know what happened from there," Tuscany said.
"There's no protocol for this kind of rescue," he added. "There's no manual. It was just horrible." He also paid tribute to his companion, saying that he was "hilarious" and a "stand-up guy" who was always willing to participate in charity events, such as the golf tournament.
Placer County sheriff captain Dennis Walsh said an investigation into the accident is under way and the Federal Aviation Administration has been alerted.
Who was Erik Roner? How did Erik Roner die?
Erik Roner was raised in northern California and quickly cultivated a love for the outdoors that he maintained throughout his life. He learned to ski at an early age due to his mother's aptitude for the sport. He later graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in graphic design.
According to his website, "his [Roner's] athleticism earned him features in numerous major ski films, accolades from magazines such as Powder, Skiing, Outside, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, Men's Journal, FHM, and sponsorship from Hurley, Rockstar, Scott, Klint, DNA and Backcountry.com."
Roner would go on to gather a reputation for pioneering ski base jumping, where skis are used to thrust the athlete off high-reaching cliffs and a parachute is used to land. Roner performed these daring jumps around the world, from Chile to Alaska and New Zealand.
The extreme sports star was featured on MTV's Nitro Circus series, led by Travis Pastrana. Pastrana and his crew of elite athletes would travel the world, riding dirt bikes, base jumping and performing stunts. "Erik was an amazing person who made everyone and everything around him better," Pastrana said.
The icon also hosted Locals on sports network Outside Television. Paying tribute to Roner, Rob Faris, the channel's senior vice president of programming and production, said: "There are no words that can express this tremendous loss to the Outside Television family.
"Erik was not only a colleague, but also a personal friend, and it was a joy to watch him celebrate life on a daily basis. We are still trying to process this tragedy. Our hearts go out to his family."