SALT LAKE CITY - Friday night's Nitro Circus event was emotional at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City. The crowded arena rose to their feet and clapped as a video tribute for Erik Roner played on the Jumbotron screen above.
"I imagined tonight would be tough," said Dustin Wygle, a Nitro Circus rider who worked with Roner for the last eight years. "His family is here, and his wife is here."
Erik Roner was a BYU graduate who learned to ski at Snowbird growing up. He eventually became one of the best skiers and extreme sports athletes in the world, even base jumping out of one of Snowbird's trams back in 2007. Roner continued to set trends and perform breath-taking stunts until last September, when he was suddenly killed during a skydiving accident.
"It was tough," admits Brooke Zaugg, Roner's sister. "I didn't want to come tonight."
Holding back tears, Zaugg waves to her kids, and Roner's wife and son, all of whom made the short drive to Salt Lake City Friday night to watch the tribute and the event.
"This is what he loved, and it’s important for us to be here and honor that."
Before the event kicked off, a video tribute played overhead, but it was followed by a moment of celebration, not silence.
“There’s nothing sad, or somber, about Erik ever," Wygle said. "So, anytime we celebrate him, it’s a party."
The show went on, with the Roner family watching. It's not the homecoming they had hoped for, but the celebration is exactly what they needed.
“It’s therapeutic, it’s joyful, and gratifying,” Zaugg said with a smile.