Steamboat Springs North Routt County resident Erick Knaus says their close-knit community has been experiencing absolute grief since learning 9-year-old Ben Zamzow died in a snowmobile accident Wednesday.
"It's shocking and horrible," Knaus said.
Knaus said everyone knew Ben, who he described as a fun-loving kid who was always smiling and laughing.
"He had it all going on," said Knaus, who took the day off from work so he could be with his family.
Snowmobiling was one of Ben's passions, Knaus said, and Ben was a tough little guy who was super caring and always willing to help.
Details about Ben's accident were not being released Thursday.
Ray Birch, undersheriff with the Routt County Sheriff's Office, refused to discuss the accident.
What is known is that the accident took place on a Forest Service Road in the Crane Park area north of Columbine.
At about 2:45 p.m. North Routt Fire Protection District firefighters were called to help. Chief Mike Swinsick said the boy was brought to the Steamboat Lake State Park Visitor's Center, and CPR was being performed.
"All we knew is it was some sort of blunt force trauma," Swinsick said.
Ben was pronounced dead at Yampa Valley Medical Center. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday.
Ben's friends gathered Thursday evening at Hahn's Peak Roadhouse for a candlelight vigil.
"When the worst happens up here, people come together and unite," Knaus said.
Hahn's Peak Roadhouse is a lodging, restaurant and outfitting business owned by Ben's parents, longtime residents Carroll and Darren Zamzow. Ben also had a younger brother named Bodie.
Hahn's Peak Roadhouse is managed by Jonathan Davenport.
"We are trying to keep it business as usual, but it's pretty tough," Davenport said. "We're trying to be the rock here."
Davenport said Ben regularly could be found at the family business, which offers snowmobile tours and various other winter activities.
"He was a crazy outdoorsman," Davenport said.
In addition to snowmobiling, Ben liked to dirt bike and water ski, and he had competed in ski jumping.
Davenport jokingly called Ben "hell on wheels" and said he had a huge impact on everyone in the community.
"I don't think there is a kid up here that didn't know Ben," Davenport said.
Ben was a fourth grader at North Routt Community Charter School, which has an enrollment of about 70 students.
Principal Brandon LaChance said a staff meeting was going to be held Sunday to develop a plan for when students return from winter break Monday. The school has a part-time counselor and is working with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and the Steamboat Springs School District to bring in more professionals to help the students cope with the tragedy.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland
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