A Tempe teenager died Monday in a sledding accident south of Flagstaff, the Coconino County Sheriff's Office said.
The victim is identified as 17-year-old Jake McGrady. The accident took place in the Mountainaire area off of Interstate 17.
McGrady underwent surgery at Flagstaff Medical Center and was later pronounced dead. He suffered multiple and serious external and internal injuries consistent with blunt force trauma, deputies said.
"It was just a freak accident. They just hit a tree, and he broke a couple of ribs," said Nick Martinez, McGrady's close friend, who was not on the trip.
"One thing led to another and it escalated and they had to do experimental surgery in the intensive care unit. He was just bleeding out too much from the lower abdominal area and he just passed away," said Martinez.
The sheriff's office said they learned that the boy had traveled to Flagstaff on Sunday with at least 10 of his high school classmates and two of their parents. The group spent the night at a local motel.
On Monday, the group traveled to the Mountainaire area, where they engaged in various snow play activities on a hill that showed signs of frequent and recent snow play, deputies said. Although the snow was firmly packed and the down slope of the hill was conducive to sledding, the area had not received any intentional or professional improvements.
McGrady was seated first on a plastic sled with one additional occupant seated behind him. As they descended down the hill, for some unknown reason, the occupants lost control of the sled and it slammed into a tree at a high speed.
The teen took the brunt of the impact and the other person on the sled suffered minor injuries, sheriff's deputies said.
Tuesday evening, friends and students wore orange shirts with McGrady's junior varsity football number, 81, on them. A moment of silence was held before the game.
"Everybody loved Jake. He was just a great guy. He was one of the funniest guys I met," said Martinez.
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