Asher Lesyshen-Kirlan, 9, of Stagecoach, died Wednesday. Community members are asked to share photos of Asher doing the activities he loved. Photos sent to share@SteamboatToday.com will be added to this gallery.
Steamboat Springs Carson Hooker said he last saw his friend Asher Lesyshen-Kirlan at school Tuesday acting the way he always will be remembered: happy and crazy and fun.
“If he was still alive, you would be his friend,” Carson, 9, said Wednesday over the phone. “He's a very good person. And he is very awesome and funny, and a lot of people do really like him.”
Carson talked for more than five minutes before he needed to pause and take a breath as he revealed all the things he liked about one of his best friends and third-grade classmate at Soda Creek Elementary School.
“Even if you were being a little bit mean to him, he'd still be nice,” the boy said.
When Carson went over to Asher's house, he said his friend wouldn't play with the box of toys he had. He would rather use his imagination.
On the playground, Asher constantly danced.
His favorite color was purple.
He had a “really funny way of being funny,” often making jokes that already had been made but with a new, personal spin.
Asher didn't like playing video games. He liked playing outside.
On Tuesday, the day before his death, Asher was testing out some new magic tricks on his classmates.
Carson was nervous about the result at first, but Asher earned his trust.
“He could probably grow up to be a magician,” Carson said.
Carson, who met Asher on a soccer field four years ago, said his friend never let anyone down.
Carson's dad, Grice Hooker, said Asher was “an intense handful of a kid,” a super intelligent kid.
As a father, he said, he now faces the tough task of talking with his child about his friend's tragic death. He said he let Carson call the Steamboat Today to talk about Asher as part of the healing process.
“I didn't go through this when I was 9,” Hooker said. “Carson is so touched by this whole thing.”
Counselors will be available again Thursday, along with professionals from Steamboat Mental Health and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
A 'spark plug'
When Bill Montag closed his eyes Wednesday at his home in Hayden, he still could see Asher singing songs and showing off with his friends on a chairlift gliding up Mount Werner.
The boy was one of 11 kids Montag, an Alpine ski coach for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, taught this winter.
Together, the kids were labeled the “wild bunch” because they “had way too much fun.”
“He was always a little spark plug,” Montag said about Asher. “You had about 20 seconds to give him instructions of what to do, and he'd be off. He always wanted to get the biggest air. He always wanted to go on the fastest run. He was always an energy guy. He was fantastic.”
Montag recalled a time this winter when the “wild bunch” took the lifts up early in the morning to the top of Thunderhead. The kids were encouraged to ski as fast as they could down Vagabond, sometimes reaching speeds of 30 to 40 mph.
But Asher had a different plan.
“He'd zoom right past me,” Montag said. “Then he decides to go back up into the woods and back down. On one run, he got stuck in the trees. I thought it was going to be a disaster. But when I found him, he just sat there with that grin of his, and he says, 'I'm fine.'”
Montag and others in the community were shocked by the news of the young boy's death Wednesday.
He was cute.
He was charming.
He was talented.
“I know he loved sports and skiing, and he was just trying to get better at everything he tried,” Julie Ransom-Keyek said about the boy who recently befriended her son at Soda Creek Elementary.
Asher was best friends with his classmate Oliver Cardillo. They were "brothers in all ways but biological," according to Oliver's father, John Cardillo.
"Asher was a 9-year-old boy who loved doing all the things Steamboat kids love to do ... skiing, jumping, swimming, rafting, biking, skateboarding and hanging out with his dad in the woods," Cardillo wrote in an email. "He had so many friends ... he was eager to please and ready to love ... he will be missed by so many people especially by his dad and little friends."
In addition to downhill skiing, Asher was part of the Winter Sports Club's Nordic combined development program.
Todd Wilson, the Winter Sports Club's Nordic director, said Howelsen Hill was Asher's big playground.
“He was one of those kids that was just always excited,” Wilson said. “He always had his eyes wide open and was ready to do anything. I don't know that I ever saw him have a bad day.”
Wilson said the Winter Sports Club was crushed by the news. He said those who knew Asher are “doing everything we can to pull together and support whoever is down.”
Montag is continuing to look at all the pictures he took with Asher and his other ski students.
“Looking at pictures of him can only make me smile,” Montag said as he recalled a recent picture of the bunch that put fake mustaches on to look more like their coach. “You've got to know the kid to understand he was a really happy-go-lucky kid.”
On Montag's table is a card he was eager to give to his student from Ted Ligety, an Olympic gold medal-winning ski racer.
"To Asher. Go for it!” the card reads before the skier's signature.
Montag said he doesn't know what he'll do with the card now.
In the meantime, he just wants to tell Asher's story and celebrate his memory.
“I want to let everybody know what a great kid he is,” Montag said. “I just can't believe that he's gone.”
Superintendent Brad Meeks on how district handled news
Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks talks about how the district handled Wednesday's tragic news.
Sheriff Garrett Wiggins' remarks at press conference
Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins discusses the investigation into the death of Soda Creek Elementary School third-grader Asher Lesyshen-Kirlan.