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Jason Cassem

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Melissa just lost her husband Jason to a tragic accident at their family home in Drum Forebay on Wednesday 3/29/23. 

 The Cassem’s had purchased their dream home in March 2022. This being their first winter here. Living at that elevation can present many challenges but as most people know, this has been a particularly challenging year when it comes to snow. Receiving feet of snow with each incoming storm.

 Most recently this week a storm had dropped at least a few more feet of snow at their home. On Wednesday, they lost power. Which is common in these mountains. They’ve been setup with a whole house generator since the purchase of their home. They dealt with the outage all day long with no estimated time of restoration in sight. At night it was time for the kids to take their nightly showers and the family decided they would all watch a movie together before heading to bed. Jason told Melissa he would go put more fuel in the generator so they could all watch their movie. The kids got into their showers and Melissa was preparing for the next day. The day before this occurred, Melissa and her family had just celebrated her birthday. A short time had passed since he had gone outside and she realized Jason had not returned. She was worried so she walked outside and called out his name. Keep in mind it’s night time, the power was out and seeing anything was difficult. When he didn’t answer her she walked out towards the generator with a flashlight in hand to find a large snow bank had collapsed and her husband was trapped inside. She immediately started trying to dig him out. The opening at the top for this collapsed snow bank was very small and she was in extremely deep snow. She found Jason and started performing CPR. But at the same time she kept having to try to climb to the top to breathe in fresh air. Then she would continue down again and gave Jason chest compressions. Each time she would go up, more snow was caving in on them. At this point she was desperate for help. She started screaming “Please help call 911” hoping a neighbor would hear her. Her 11 year old daughter Juliana and 10 year old son Geoffrey heard her screams and ran outside to find their Mom pleading for help. The kids had just gotten out of their showers so both of them were barely in their pajamas at this point. Cell reception in this area isn’t the greatest but Juliana was finally able to call 911. Due to their remote location, the roads not plowed and a few feet of snow, it took crews some time to reach the home. In the mean time, the fire dispatchers stayed on the line with Juliana and Geoffrey instructing them to find something in the house to try and dig out their parents. They were told to grab pots and pans from the kitchen and they instructed them to try and dig through the snow to get to their parents. An off duty firefighter that is also a neighbor got word of what was happening and quickly responded to the home to help dig them out. 

 Finally crews reached their home, performed CPR but unfortunately Jason did not make it. When the snow caved in right next to the generator with Jason under it all, he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

 Melissa and the kids are beyond devastated. Their lives have changed forever and the emotional trauma they endured will be something they will never forget. 

 I have created a GoFundMe for the family to help them financially as they grieve his death. There are a lot of unknowns at this time. But I do know that she will not be able to or even want to live in the home in the future. It’s where her husband suffered a tragic death. I am trying to help her by relieving some of the financial stress that comes along with a life changing tragedy. 

 We are a small mountain community that relies on the kindness of our neighbors. This is something that most people can’t ever imagine happening. Even for us that have years of experience up here. Any help for Melissa and her two kids is greatly appreciated. 

If you prefer to use Venmo, contact me privately and I can give you that info. 

Thank you  

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Organizer and beneficiary

Alexis Zahner McKelvey
Alta, CA
Melissa Cassem

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