An undated photo of Peter Mathews, a guardsman in the...

An undated photo of Peter Mathews, a guardsman in the Maryland Air National Guard and a Bay Shore native, who died at 24. Credit: U.S. Air Force

A Long Island man serving in the Maryland Air National Guard has died after falling while snowboarding at an indoor ski facility at a mall in The Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey as he was preparing for a vacation trip with friends, his family said Monday.

Peter Mathews, 24, of Bay Shore, fell last Thursday night as he snowboarded down a slope at the Big Snow American Dream located inside the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, his family said.

He fell backward, hit his head, became unconscious and had trouble breathing, said Sarah Mathews, his sister. A friend who is a registered nurse, along with EMTs at the facility, performed CPR including chest compressions, she said.

He was transported to Hackensack University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9:20 p.m., his sister Sarah Mathews said.

Mathews was an Airman First Class in the Maryland Air National Guard, which he joined in 2020. He had dreams of eventually becoming a pilot for a commercial airline, like his father, Sarah Mathews said.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Galabiehs, 175th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron senior enlisted leader, said Mathews “was genuinely an amazing person, and his smile lit up the room.”

“If you had a chance to talk to him, you knew instantly he had a remarkable future and was destined for greatness,” Galabiehs said in a statement.

His family said they were shocked by his death, had no immediate explanation, and were awaiting results of an autopsy. Mathews was wearing a helmet and other safety gear at the time, his sister said.

Mathews had no underlying health problems that his family knew of, she said. He was serving as a crew chief in the Maryland Air National Guard, overseeing maintenance of A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft.

In a statement, Big Snow said: “We can confirm that our ski patrol responded to a guest incident last Thursday evening. First aid was administered, and the guest was transported to a hospital for further care. Our thoughts are with this guest’s family at this time.”

One of Peter Mathews’s best friends, Beno Varghese, 23, of Elmont, said he was with him Thursday night.

“He really just had like a routine, normal fall. He fell back and hit his head,” Varghese said. “I saw him on the ground. I ran up and he was already unconscious.”

Mathews and his group of friends were planning to leave on Friday morning for a skiing and snowboarding trip to Vermont, his sister said. On Thursday night, they decided to go to Big Snow. “The indoor snowboarding was like a little warm up before they actually tried the big mountain” in Vermont, she said.

The group had met years ago through church groups including the one Mathews and his family attends, New York Believers Assembly in West Hempstead, his sister said.

Peter was active in youth ministry, including leading retreats, she said.

As medical personnel tried to keep him alive in an area off to the side of the slope Thursday night, Varghese and the other friends gathered in a circle and prayed for him, Varghese said.

Big Snow describes itself as “North America’s first and only indoor, year-round, real-snow ski and snowboard resort.”

Mathews typically drove up from Maryland to Long Island on Fridays, and would stay with friends in New Jersey for a bit until traffic died down, his sister said.

But last week, he got Friday off, so drove up on Thursday.

A 2016 graduate of Bay Shore High School, Mathews attended Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology adjacent to LaGuardia Airport as he started to pursue his goal of becoming a pilot, his sister said. Then he joined the Air National Guard.

As part of his work, he recently served in Latvia, his sister said.

Galabiehs said Mathews mobilized with his squadron and A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft from the 104th Fighter Squadron to support two U.S. Army Europe-led exercises in Eastern Europe: Swift Response and Defender Europe 22.

He was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal for his accomplishments during those exercises, Galabiehs said.

He is also survived by his parents, Roy and Susmy Mathews, and another sister, Grace Mathews, all of Bay Shore.

A wake is scheduled Saturday and Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Moloney’s Bohemia Funeral Home. A funeral will take place there Monday, Dec. 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Burial will follow at Calverton National Cemetery.

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