1 of 5
James Young, Deseret News
Neighbors and friends decorated the Eagle Mountain home of Heather and Matt Gunderson, who are grieving the loss of their 11-year-old son, Orion. He died Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 after accidentally hanging himself on exercise equipment in their basement. The couple said they are grateful and a little overwhelmed by all the community support they have received since his death.
I'm always watching out for dangers, so it's just shocking to all of a sudden (have it) happen to you. —Heather Gunderson

EAGLE MOUNTAIN — A family grieving the loss of their 11-year-old boy says they have been touched by an outpouring of love since his accidental death.

Orion Gunderson died Monday after he accidentally hanged himself on a piece of exercise equipment in his home.

“When we left the hospital, I didn’t want to come home because how do you come home to a home where your boy is never going to be again?” said Heather Gunderson, Orion’s mother.

While the pain at times seemed unbearable, Heather and Matt Gunderson were welcomed home in a way that brought them a lot of comfort. Outside their house in Eagle Mountain, balloons and heart-shaped paper flowers greeted them with special messages decorating their yard. Colorful paper hearts were everywhere inside their home.

"Immediately, I was just overcome and felt so much love,” she said.

"It was overwhelming," her husband added.

Orion was using a home suspension trainer the family had built in the basement, which included ropes and pulleys, when the accident occurred Sunday afternoon.

"That's all it was, just two ropes hanging, and I guess he got them mixed up when he was doing a pull-up and came down and wasn't able to (free himself),” his father said.

Orion's 9-year-old brother desperately tried to save him, then went upstairs to tell their father something wasn't right.

Orion was taken to American Fork Hospital and then flown by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Hospital in extremely critical condition Sunday. He died from his injuries Monday morning.

“I'm always watching out for dangers, so it's just shocking to all of a sudden (have it) happen to you,” Heather Gunderson said.

The Gundersons have chosen to focus on memories of their oldest son, who they said always had a twinkle in his eye. Orion was avid BYU fan who had dreams of playing football there someday.

"He was funny,” his mother said. “He was getting a sense of humor. He was coming into his own."

"He was loving, compassionate, handsome," his father said.

"When Orion was happy, when he saw something he liked, or especially when he thought he was being funny, you saw it. His eyes lit up. And his sweet, barely contained smile, found its way to your face before you knew it was there," the family wrote in his obituary, explaining that their "beloved son, grandson, brother, cousin, friend, cornerback, and hobbit has been called home."

"Orion had a lot to smile about. He was voted class president for his first month of sixth grade, winning on the platform of 'Vote for me, because I’m awesome,'" the obituary states. "After much barefoot training, his goal of hobbit-tough feet was coming to pass. He was given the moniker of Navy Seal at Scouts, because his physical fitness became legendary. He was a stalwart in the Hidden Hollow Running Club. He scored his first touchdown in football on an amazing go-route catch. And, he confessed to his mother that he, in fact, was beginning to like school. (He just hated homework.)"

On the morning of the accident, the family said Orion had cleaned the kitchen, dressed for church and then helped his younger brother Bryce get ready to go — all without being asked. "But that was him; that was Orion’s character. He loved. From the wooden sword he made his cousin Hyrum to help him fight through his challenges, to getting his little brother into his Sunday best, Orion quietly yet consistently delivered kindness. His 'play it cool' exterior didn’t fool anyone, least of all his family," they wrote in the obituary.

The Gundersons wanted to express thanks a community that has come together to help carry the burden of the loss of their boy.

"It takes the sting away and makes it bearable," Heather Gunderson said.

Relatives are also trying to help the couple, who are expecting a baby in January. They have started a fundraising campaign to help with medical bills and the funeral, which is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. at the LDS Eagle Mountain Stake Center, 2977 Saddle Rock Road.

The information can be found at fundly.com/in-memory-of-orion-gunderson.

Email: syi@deseretnews.com