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Upton teen dies after falling from chairlift

Family photo via Worcester Telegram & Gazette

John “Jack” Street was photographed by a family member Wednesday night before his fatal accident at the SkiWard Ski area.

UPTON -- The family of John Street said today that the teen, who was fatally injured in a fall from a chairlift Wednesday night, was an experienced skier who “died doing what he loved to do.’’

Street, 18, was with his fellow Nipmuc Regional High School ski team members when he apparently suffered a seizure and fell some 25 feet to the icy ground below at the Ski Ward ski area in Shrewsbury Wednesday night shortly before 7 p.m.

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His family declined to be interviewed at their home here on Kensington Way and instead issued a statement about the burly Street, who was known to family and friends as “Jack.”

“Jack’s circle of friends included every generation and they will all miss him tremendously. … He was an 18-year-old boy with a heart of gold and a passion for skiing beyond all else,’’ the statement said. “He loved his family fiercely, particularly his brother Owen. He was a ‘gentle giant’ who had an amazing smile and loud laugh.’’

In the statement, the family said Street “had tremendous clarity in his view points and loved to argue about politics, religion and social issues.’’

The family also said he was an experienced skier. “Although yesterday was his first day on a ski team, he has spent every winter since age 5 skiing at every opportunity and died doing what he loved,” the statement said.

They also said that Street “was a tremendous sports fan organizing fantasy leagues and critiquing his favorite teams endlessly.’’

Street’s death is under investigation by Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.’s office, which said Street appeared to have suffered a seizure before falling out of the chairlift. He was taken to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester, where he was pronounced dead at 7:24 p.m., the district attorney’s office said.

In a statement posted today on their website, the Ski Ward owners said “it saddens us to have learned that the racer has passed away.’’

“As a family operated ski area, this tragedy is close to our hearts,’’ the ski area, which has been owned since 1990 by John and Effy LaCroix, said in the statement. “Please join the Ski Ward family in giving our heartfelt thoughts, prayers and support to his family and friends during this difficult time.’’

Nipmuc High School principal John Clements wrote about the teen’s death in the blog he maintains on the school’s website. Street was a senior at the school, which is located in Upton.

“This is a horrible tragedy that impacts all of us at Nipmuc,’’ Clements wrote. “Jack will be remembered as a bright and talented young man with a great sense of humor and a tremendous personality. His loss will be felt deeply by us not only today, but also in the weeks, months, and years to come.’’

Clements notified students and parents that counseling would be available at the school today. The school draws students from neighboring towns of Mendon and Upton.

“We realize that this loss will affect our entire communities of Mendon and Upton,’’ he wrote. “On behalf of our entire school community, I extend our sincere sympathy to Jack’s family and friends at this time of mourning.

Shrewsbury Fire Captain Mark Mann said firefighters and emergency medical service workers who were called to the area found the teenager about a third of the way up the hill, near a stanchion supporting the lift assembly.

“We’re sad for the family,” said Mann. “Our thoughts are with them at this time.”

According to the company’s website, the area, once known as Ward Hill Ski Area, has been in operation since 1939 and is one of the oldest continuously operating ski/snowboard areas in the country.

An autopsy is planned to determine the cause and manner of death.

Martin Finucane of the Globe Staff and Steven H. Foskett Jr. of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette contributed to this report.

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