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Grieving Arizona mother cries for answers after son's death at ski resort

"I want Sunrise to be responsible and accountable for what happened to my son. He’s not coming back and it’s his job that took him."

WHITERIVER, Ariz. – A grieving mother searching for answers in her son’s death said nearly six weeks after what police called a workplace accident, management at the ski resort where he lost his life had yet to tell her how it happened.

Thirty-nine-year-old Reggie Antonio’s heartbroken mother, Kathleen Kane-Quintero, wants accountability from Sunrise Resort Park, where she said her son dedicated a decade of his life.

“I want Sunrise to be responsible and accountable for what happened to my son. He’s not coming back and it’s his job that took him,” Kane-Quintero cried.

Records from the White Mountain Apache Tribal Police Department call Antonio’s death “accidental.” His death certificate states “blunt force trauma to the body” as the cause.
The paperwork from the embalming of his body at the Silver Creek Mortuary in Pinetop states his body was “electrocuted.”

Kane-Quintero shared the following letter with 12 News on Dec. 18, saying she received it that same day. The letter, dated Dec. 14, is signed by Silver Creek Mortuary owner and funeral director Jason C. Brubaker, and licensed embalmers intern Matthew G. Buckley.

To whom it may concern,

It has been brought to our attention that a comment on the embalming report for Reggie Antonio has caused some confusion. The comment referred to is, “electrocuted.” This was included because of how the death call was dispatched to Silver Creek Mortuary at the time we received the initial call.

This was only listed as a comment, not a description of what was observed. There were no indications of electrocution. If there were burn marks, they would have been noted and described on the embalming report; as was lividity, a small cut on top of the head and bruising on the left side of the body.

We are sorry for the confusion this has caused. Please let this letter be an explanation of the notes on the embalming report.

Different agencies recorded varying versions of one tale—Antonio died on Nov. 6, while working on a ski lift at this park owned by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. His mom said nearly six weeks later, she was still waiting for one account—that of resort leadership.

“I want Sunrise to tell me what really happened. They haven’t told me the truth, you know, there’s conflicting stories in this,” Kane-Quintero said. “He loved his job, went to work every day and to me, they didn’t take care of him for me. They’re hiding something. They’re not telling me the truth.”

In a document to the tribal council, the park president at the time, Dawnafe Whitesinger, announced the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was investigating after park staff notified the agency of Antonio’s death. The letter tells of a “tragic,” “shocking” and “unfortunate death,” after Antonio cleared movement of the maintenance chair he was in, without first detaching the belay tying him to a tower. It reads, “this error is what killed him,” explaining how the rope pulled Antonio out of the basket.

In his message, Whitesinger places the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on scene, but police records disagree, saying because it was ruled a “workplace accident,” the FBI didn’t show.

Police documents explain Antonio was not wearing a safety helmet.

After Antonio's family presented all this information to the tribal council on Dec. 13, several members of the resort’s management team were replaced.

Despite all the uncertainty Antonio’s mom felt about the way her son died, it was clear he was a critical part of his family.

“He’s not here to take care of his mom and dad and they really need him now,” Kane-Quintero cried.

Antonio—a father of five, a Hot Wheels, G.I. Joes and sports fanatic—was a popular zip line instructor at Sunrise. His mom said even American Idol’s Jordan Sparks asked for him.

“The workers there told me she came back last year and she requested for him to be his guide,” Kane-Quintero said, smiling with pride at a photo of Antonio next to Sparks.

Kane-Quintero called her son’s smile contagious and his baking addictive, crying as she looked at the empty cooling racks on her kitchen counter where his family always found his treats. She said the holidays made his loss even more difficult.

“Where’s the cookies? Where’s his upside-down pineapple cake? Where’s his pumpkin squares and you know, when the family gets together, he was the baker,” Antonio’s mom said with tears in her eyes.

Kane-Quintero said every part of her son was gone because mistakes were made and she wanted to hear about them directly from those running the place where he spent the last years of his life and took his last breath.

After contacting the tribal spokeswoman and the new interim general manager of the resort on Dec. 15, with questions about the ongoing investigation by OSHA, 12 News was still waiting to hear back the following Monday.

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