"It hadn't snowed up here for about three weeks so it was icy," said Seth Benson, one of Cavalli's best friends in high school, who attends University of Nevada in Reno. "His first run of the day he was doing some jumps. There was way too much speed. He hit extremely hard on the ice."
Jordan Little, a junior at Amador Valley High, was one of the three teens who accompanied Cavalli on the snowboarding trip. He and Chris Hewitt of Pleasanton picked up Cavalli and Ben Holmquist at UC Davis, where they are freshmen.
"We got there at 8-8:30 and were on the first run by 9:15," Little recalled.
The run had five jumps. They all completed four and Cavalli went ahead on the last jump, which was 40 feet long.
"Ben said, 'This one's kind of big. I don't know if we should do it,'" Little remembered. They snowboarded around it and saw that Cavalli had overshot the landing ramp and was lying in the snow, injured. He'd landed on his side, headfirst. The end of his snowboard was snapped off.
"Chris is in EMT school. He sent me to get help and sent Ben up so no one else would do the jump," Little said.
Little notified someone around the bend who was grooming the snow, and by the time he returned to the spot, Cavalli was being loaded on a sled.
"Chris said eight ski patrol were there within a minute," Little said.
At the lodge, they'd already roped off a spot for the helicopter to land to transport Cavalli to the hospital.
In addition to the aorta tear and the broken collarbone, Cavalli suffered cracked vertebrae in his neck, two chipped vertebrae in his lower back, damage to his liver, spleen, lungs and kidney, and a blood clot in his forehead, said Benson. Cavalli underwent surgery Tuesday to repair his collarbone.
Family and friends continue to travel to the hospital as Cavalli recovers from his surgeries, and Benson said Wednesday that he's been responsive and communicating. His sister Mikaela immediately flew in from graduate school in Washington, D.C., to be with Eric and their parents, Mike and JoAnn Cavalli of Pleasanton.
An outpouring of best wishes and concern have been posted on a special Facebook page his friends started.
"I cannot thank you all enough for your love, support and prayers for our son," JoAnn Cavalli posted on the site several days after the accident. "I'm sorry that it's taken so long for Mike and I to get to a computer to send out our thanks."
Friends at UC Davis have purchased 1,600 bracelets to sell for $1 each to raise money to help defray medical expenses.
"His parents are appreciative of people messaging and texting him and for the wristbands," Benson said.
Mail can be sent to Cavalli via at the following address:
Seth Benson, Attn: Eric Cavalli
P.O. Box 8712
Reno, NV 89507
The Eric Cavalli Recovery Trust Fund can accept donations at this address also or via PayPal by writing in email@example.com. Check off Personal or Gift so that a percentage isn't taken by PayPal.