Jesse Brandsen was headed to visit his mother on Faith Avenue when his skateboard hit a curb on the steep street and he fell, fatally hitting his head Monday night, his family said.
His friend, who had been riding a bicycle a few feet ahead, heard him crash to the ground at 7:16 p.m. and began to yell for help, police said. Brandsen's mother, Janet, said she came out of her home and found her 26-year-old son bleeding profusely in the street.
As he was being rushed to Rogue Valley Medical Center, he coded in the ambulance, said Brandsen's grandmother, Ruth Wire. Doctors at the hospital were never able to revive him.
"They never could get his heart going again," Wire said. "I was shocked and horrified."
No vehicles were involved in the crash, which Ashland Police Deputy Chief Rich Walsh called a tragic accident. He said detectives had closed the case as of Tuesday afternoon and had no reason to suspect drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident.
Brandsen, who lived in Ashland, was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, police said. Ashland has an ordinance requiring people using skateboards, roller skates or scooters on city streets to wear helmets, but the law is not widely enforced because of limited police resources, Walsh said.
Brandsen's family hopes the accident can serve to remind skateboarders to wear helmets, said Wire, who lives with Janet on Faith Avenue.
"We would love to send a message to the young people of this town that wearing a helmet when they're on a skateboard is so important," she said.
Brandsen was born at Ashland Community Hospital and spent most of his life in the city, said Wire, who helped raise him.
The blond, 6-feet-2-inches tall skateboarder was troubled as a teenager but had begun to turn his life around in recent years, Wire said. He worked at Wendy's on Ashland Street.
His mother described him as kind and a good listener.
"He was a sweet kid and he had a good heart," she said. "He always would help people out."
A talented sculptor, Brandsen held a show at Ashland's Unitarian Universalist Church several years ago, Wire said.
He attended Ashland High School and Crossroads School in Medford, she said.
Wire said Brandsen was adept at skateboarding and enjoyed going fast down steep hills.
"That's why this was really hard for me to believe," she said. "He was so surefooted."
About five years ago, a man who was not wearing a helmet died while skateboarding at the Ashland skateboard park off Water Street, Walsh said.
Skateboarders cited by police for not wearing a helmet can receive a fine of up to $500, he said.
"There's a lot of people that don't wear helmets because they don't want to or because it's inconvenient or they think it looks funny or whatever it is, but the bottom line is that it may save your life someday," Walsh said.
Ashland skateboarder Paul Page, 22, said the accident has made him more careful about wearing his helmet.
"I wear it as much as possible, but there are times I don't," he said. "It's things like this that make it seem like I should more."
Julian Reed, 13, said he used to skateboard every morning at the Ashland skate park with a man named Jesse, who he believes was Brandsen.
"I was wondering why he wasn't here this morning," he said Tuesday. "He was a great guy. He was always nice to the kids. He was teaching me some stuff."
A memorial service for Brandsen is planned but details have not yet been announced. In addition to his mother and grandmother, he is survived by his brother Shane Thomas, 21, of Medford.
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.