Sonny Bono loved skiing, and fun trips to the ski resorts of Palm Springs were always his way of spending time with his family. One skiing trip to the Nevada-California line, however, turned out to be his last.
Sonny Bono was an American politician, actor, and singer, who came to the limelight after he partnered with his second wife Cher to create the pop singing duo “Sonny & Cher.”
The couple was thrust into fame when they produced their two hit songs, “I Got You, Babe” and “Baby Don’t Go,” in 1965 and continued to touch the hearts of many Americans through their music.
The ’70s saw the duo debut their careers as media personalities with the top TV shows “The Sonny & Cher Show” and “Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.” In the decade they were together, they were nominated for two Grammy Awards.
They went on to sell over 40 million records worldwide. Their career as a duo, however, was terminated when they got divorced in 1975.
Following their split, Cher embarked on a solo career that would become highly successful, while Bono was elected into Congress as the Republican U.S, Representative from California.
In 1986, Bono married his fourth wife, Mary Whitaker, and together, they had two children, daughter Chianna Maria and son Chesare Elan.
Congress was on a New Years’ break, and the family of four, together with some friends, were having some fun as they ushered in the new year. Bono was a renowned proficient skier and would frequent skiing resorts with his family.
A spokesman for the resort, John Wagnon, said that Bono was skiing the well-groomed intermediate run referred to as “Orion.” The run is said to have had ideal conditions as it was reasonably open and lined with trees like any ski resort would be.
Bono skied on ahead as his wife took the rear to ensure the kids were in front of her and she would be better placed to see and help them if the need arose.
“The Beat Goes On” singer was soon off, a big smile on his face. Never realizing that these would be the last he saw of his family, he challenged his son, calling out to Ches to follow him.
Ches took off behind his father, but his ski got caught on an edge. He spun around and hit Chianna, and so Mary made haste to attend to them. Bono was long gone, unaware that he had just seen his family for the last time.
HIS DISAPPEARANCE AND THE SEARCH
Soon after, Mary and the kids came upon the first stop area, expecting to find Bono waiting for them there, but he was nowhere to be found. They began searching, more out of curiosity than consternation.
At first, Mary was not skeptical. She imagined that they had either taken a different route than Bono had, or he had just zoomed by so fast he wouldn’t stop at the rest area.
Thirty minutes into the search, and panic was beginning to set in. They went to the next rest stop, then down to the bottom. The day was beginning to wear off, but there was still no sign of him.
Mary confided with the ski patrol, but there had been no accident reported. So they continued searching – up and down the hill, all the way to the bottom of the mountain, then back up – still, nothing. Mary recalls of the fateful afternoon:
“The kids were so cold. They were crying. I said, ‘OK. He had to have skied to the very bottom. That’s what happened. He’ll be there waiting for us.’”
By 4:30 in the afternoon, they still hadn’t found him. The ski patrol officially declared him missing. A few minutes after 6 p.m, the president of the resort, together with the area sheriff, told Mary that they had found a body.
Bono had been involved in a collision. He had run into a tree, and without a helmet, it had been fatal. As she would come to learn later, even if he had had on a helmet, the force was too much that it would have left him brain-dead.
Bono never wore helmets when skiing, but six days earlier, Michael Kennedy, a nephew to John F. Kennedy, had died during a skiing accident.
The accident led to Bono discussing helmets with his wife, and he had promised to get one before they went on the next skiing trip.
Pierini, the sheriff, confirmed that the accident had occurred at 2 p.m, but at the time, Mary had not reported him missing. He adds that it would have been difficult to spot him unless one was skiing or looking for him in that specific area.
He had been “tree skiing,” an activity that is common among advanced skiers, as Bono was. There had been no witnesses to the accident and his death was recorded as having been caused by head injuries as a result of blunt force trauma.
FBI AGENT DISAGREES WITH AUTOPSY RESULTS
Despite the autopsy results showing that the collision with the tree had been the cause of death, Ted Gunderson, a former FBI agent, refuted the claims, saying that Bono had been assassinated.
Gunderson claimed that Bono – a member of the US House of Representatives – was about to expose some of the international weapons and drug rings, and top US officials had hired some hitmen to move in on him.
Top forensic experts reportedly backed up his claims, and Gunderson had spoken to America’s Globe regarding the autopsy results, as reported by NME:
“It’s nonsense for anyone to now try to suggest that Bono died after crashing into a tree.”
Years after his demise, Cher opened up about the life she shared with her former husband in a reality TV program aired on CBS, named “Sonny and Me: Cher Remembers.”
The show, she said, was her way of telling the extraordinary story of Bono because, without him, she would not have been where she was. She also disclosed that she often communicated with Bono through the spiritual medium James Van Praagh.
Today, Bono is remembered for his musical genius and his involvement in Congress as a conservative politician. He was succeeded by his three children from his two marriages- his second to Cher and his fourth to Mary.