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College hockey player dies in Whiteface ski crash

Tanner Kahlau (Photo provided by SUNY Fredonia)

WILMINGTON — A SUNY Fredonia student and hockey player died from a ski crash on Whiteface Mountain on Tuesday.

Bernhard “Tanner” Kahlau, 22, of Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, was skiing on the Approach trail at Whiteface Mountain Ski Center when he lost control, veered off the trail and hit trees shortly after noon on Tuesday, according to New York State Police.

State Police received a call about the accident at 12:33 p.m. Whiteface Mountain Ski Patrol responded at approximately 12:38 p.m., according to the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates the ski center. Ski patrollers transported Kahlau to Wilmington Fire Rescue.

Essex County Coroner Jerod Heidrick pronounced Kahlau dead and authorized his removal to Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, where an autopsy was performed Wednesday, according to Trooper Jennifer Fleishman, State Police Troop B’s public information officer.

Kahlau’s cause of death was determined to be skull and cervical fracture related to the ski crash.

He was a business management major at SUNY Fredonia and a player for the Fredonia Blue Devils. He played all 25 games with the Blue Devils men’s hockey team during the 2019-20 season. He scored two goals and had three assists. The year before that, he scored a game-winning goal against SUNY Morrisville.

He was the son of Susan and Butch Kahlau and brother of Anna Kahlau, according to SUNY Fredonia’s website.

Before attending SUNY Fredonia, he played football and lacrosse at Crestwood High School in Mountain Top, and played junior hockey with the New Jersey Rockets of the United States Premier Hockey League.

“To say Tanner was a great teammate is not doing him justice,” said Jeff Meredith, the head coach of Kahlau’s team at Fredonia.

“We are saddened by the loss of our teammate, Tanner,” Meredith said in a statement. “The impact he left on our program, coaches, and teammates will forever be remembered.”

“He was a teammate that everyone loved. His kind demeanor, easy way, and welcoming smile made him a leader, confidant, and friend to all,” Meredith added. “He was a ‘team first’ guy and would do anything for his boys. Tanner was incredibly humble and I am fortunate to be able to say I worked with him and got to share in his college experience. Our Fredonia family is strong and we will need that strength to support each other as we mourn the loss of such a valued member of our family. God bless Tanner and his family.”

The college’s director of athletics, Jerry Fisk, called Kahlau a “great young man.”

“He was a student-athlete that always shared a smile and had time to talk with you. He was a pleasure to be around and his loss will be felt by everyone on the team, in the department, and at Fredonia State,” Fisk said in a statement.

ORDA expressed its condolences to Kahlau’s family on Wednesday.

“On behalf of Whiteface Mountain, we express our sincere condolences to family and friends who have been impacted,” said ORDA spokeswoman Elise Ruocco.

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Senior Sports Writer Lou Reuter contributed to this report.

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