An Andrews University student died in her sleep while on a skiing trip in her home state of California during the Christmas break, the university said Friday.
Whitney Watson, 18, a sophomore double major in math and viola, went skiing with her parents in Mammoth, California, last weekend and then set out to climb Mount Whitney with her father, Jim, on Monday. Her mother, Marilene, returned to work in Los Angeles.
“That night they camped at 10,000 feet [3,050 meters], which is the same elevation where they often ate lunch during a day of skiing,” the family said in a statement provided by Andrews University. “On Tuesday morning, she did not wake up.”
Mount Whitney, with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 meters), is the highest summit in the contiguous United States and is popular with skiers.
The cause of Watson’s death were not immediately clear. Watson started skiing at the age of 22 months and was considered the best skier and snowboarder in the family.
“Our beloved Whitney — daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, and friend — is asleep in Jesus,” the family said in the statement. “Our hearts are broken, and our grief is excruciating beyond words. We thank you all for your outpouring of love during this time of unthinkable loss; we very much need and appreciate your prayers.”
Andrews provost Andrea Luxton offered condolences on behalf of the university.
“As a campus we grieve with Whitney’s family for the loss of a talented and greatly loved young woman,” she said in an e-mail to students and faculty. “Please join us in praying for comfort for all those impacted by this huge loss.”
Andrews University will hold an informal gathering to celebrate Watson’s life at 5 p.m. Sabbath, Dec. 19, at the Campus Ministries office, located in the Campus Center. Another event is planned for January after students and faculty members return to the campus from the holiday break.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 27, at the Los Angeles Chinese Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Watson’s parents said they would particularly miss their daughter’s smiles.
“Whitney was a beautiful, talented, always-smiling Christian young woman, who loved and was loved by all her teachers, friends, and family,” they said in the statement. “She … planned to follow in older sister WayAnne’s footsteps towards a career in medicine.”