HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) — What should have been a day of celebration ended in tragedy for one family after a Hood River man died in a skiing accident on Mt. Hood.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said Dr. Cory Johnston was found Tuesday afternoon by two climbers at 9,400 feet in the Illumination Saddle area. Deputies said he was back-country skiing and had fallen from an unknown height. Despite being alive when climbers found him, Johnston died before paramedics arrived.
Tuesday was his 47th birthday.
Portland Mountain Rescue said the Illumination Saddle area where Johnston died wasn’t particularly dangerous at the time but due to recent spring-like weather, it was covered with frozen clumps of snow known as “ice heads” or “chicken heads.” PMR officials said the conditions were unusual and would have made skiing impossible.
Friends and colleagues told KOIN 6 News Johnston was a husband and father to two little boys.
He was also a surgeon at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital.
“Cory was an amazing man, he was an amazing friend, he was an amazing doctor,” said Johnston’s neighbor, Jan Veldhuisen Virk.
Virk said some neighbors and a few other couples planned to meet for dinner on Tuesday night to celebrate Johnston’s birthday. It was supposed to be a surprise put on by his wife, Pippa.
“My husband called me and said dinner’s canceled… Pippa’s concerned about Cory,” said Virk.
His friends and family never got to celebrate the day with him. But his legacy as a loving father and husband won’t soon be forgotten.
“I have to say, he was the most amazing dad and husband. I mean that was truly where his heart was at,” Virk said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the hospital’s Chief Executive Jeanie Vieira described him as a “much-loved member of the Providence family” who was a “compassionate, caring man who was friendly and approachable.”
The statement reads, in part:
“Patients told us he always took time to address their concerns, explain their conditions and answer their questions before and after procedures. We also know how much he loved his wife, Dr. Pippa Newell, and their two children. As many of you know, Dr. Newell is also part of our Providence family, serving as medical director of our liver cancer program. She is a well-regarded cancer researcher, and a respected physician with The Oregon Clinic.
Dr. Johnston also loved the outdoors – everything from cycling to sailing to running and being on the mountain. When we think of him, we’ll remember the photos of his adventures, or playing with his kids … and, of course, his caring for our patients.
This is an extremely sad time for all of us. Please hold Pippa, their children and the entire family in your prayers. We all will support each other, with special caring outreach for our caregivers who work closely with both Dr. Johnston and Dr. Newell, and, of course, the patients we all serve.“