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Physics Junior Dies After Skateboarding Fall

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. May 18, 2011 – New Mexico Tech physics student Graham Bultemeier, 21, died Saturday afternoon, May 14, after a skateboarding fall.
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 Graham Bultemeier with his father, Pat.  Courtesy photo

Bultemeier was long-boarding in Los Alamos when Bultemeier lost control and fell, striking his head on the pavement. Bultemeier and his friends were long-boarding near Rose Street and Central Avenue near downtown Los Alamos, according to the Los Alamos police.

“We are all shocked and saddened by the passing of Graham Bultemeier,” Tech President Dr. Daniel H. Lopez said. “The entire campus community is saddened by the loss of one our students in this tragic incident. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are extended to his family during this profound personal tragedy.”

A memorial service and celebration of life is being planned for June in Colorado. In lieu of flowers, donations in Graham's memory may be made at any Wells Fargo Bank. Lopez spoke with Graham’s parents, Pat and Becky, and offered to plan a memorial service in Socorro after the fall 2011 semester starts.

Gina Chavez, secretary for the Physics Department, said Bultemeier was a friendly, outgoing, enthusiastic student. He always seemed happy and was a joy to be around, Chavez said.

“He loved it here and felt at home,” Lopez said. “His parents told me that he felt like he was going to succeed even though Tech is difficult. It’s especially difficult to lose an individual who was so committed and enthusiastic about his academic challenges at New Mexico Tech.”

The Los Alamos Monitor reported that Bultemeier lost control of his skateboard and hit the pavement, according to Fire Marshal Mike Thompson. Bultemeier was not wearing a helmet and suffered trauma to the head.

The Monitor reported that off-duty firefighter Matt Muñoz witnessed the incident at 2:55 p.m. and began to render aid immediately. Muñoz then called for help. The Los Alamos Fire Department and the Los Alamos Police Department responded to the call at 3:03 p.m.

A police department spokeswoman said Bultemeier was airlifted to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, where he passed away.

The tragic fall happened as competitors raced down Camp May Road in the Atomic Bomb skateboard competition across town in Los Alamos, the Monitor reported. The Monitor reported that Joe Lehm, the owner of Timeship Racing of Santa Fe which put on the road race, said Bultemeier was not a registered competitor but he was in town to volunteer and help with parking.

“I had met him before and he was [in Los Alamos] to watch the race,” Lehm told the Monitor. “It is very tragic. He came up with a friend who had given him a helmet and his friend told him to make sure he wore the helmet if he was going to skateboard and he didn’t.”

Born Feb. 17, 1990, in Vail, Colo., Graham graduated from Battle Mountain High School in 2008.

According to an article in the Vail Daily News, Graham’s friends and family described him as an extremely giving and active person.

“While we are overwhelmed with grief, we are so grateful for the love and support of our community that Graham so passionately embraced and embodied,” the Daily News quoted the Bultemeier family as saying. “Graham lived fully, although too briefly. Be open to all possibilities and accept your children for who they are — we are so thankful for and find peace in how we loved Graham so unconditionally.”

The newspaper offered these vignettes about Graham.

“While he was in college a crippled dog ended up on Graham's front porch in a rainstorm. Graham nursed the starving stray back to health and decided he had to keep her as she wouldn't survive long at the local shelter.

“As a freshman [at New Mexico Tech], Graham learned the art of glassblowing. It became a passionate hobby, his mother said, as he enjoyed creating shapes that challenged his professors to define them mathematically.

“As a young boy, Graham enjoyed the challenge and camaraderie of scouting, receiving his Arrow of Light as a Cub Scout. He was an avid mountain biker, spending several summers working with kids at mountain biking camps. He also worked as a bicycle technician and interned for LGM Models learning how to build architectural models.

“He loved snowboarding, hiking, skateboarding and camping with his brother Hunter and his friends. He played guitar and drums in a garage band, ‘Mixed Messages.’ …

“Working beside his father Pat, Graham helped build a cabin near Leadville where the family enjoys spending time together. He was always a powerful role model for his younger brother Hunter.

“Hunter always knew how much Graham loved him, and speaks frequently about how much he learned from his older brother,” his mother Becky said.

In addition to his parents and brother, he is survived by grandparents, Arlene and Bennie Royal of Independence, Mo., and Martha and Herbert Bultemeier of Sunrise Beach, Mo.

– NMT –

By Thomas Guengerich/New Mexico Tech