Wintertime Resort Tragedies: It’s Not Just Accidents on Skis and Snowboards
Skiing and snowboarding are among the most popular wintertime recreational activities in the United States. People flock to ski resorts in the West and Northeast with abandon to take on the slopes as soon as snow permits. Sadly, every year people sustain injuries, including fatal ones, while skiing or boarding. In addition, other individuals sustain serious and even fatal injuries when at ski resorts when not on the slopes. An alarming mid-February 2020 tragedy at the Vail resort in Colorado provides a shocking illustration of what potentially can happen when something goes horribly awry at a wintertime recreational venue.
A 46-year old man from New Jersey was hitting the slopes at Vail on February 13. The gentleman was attempting to board a ski lift in the Blue Sky Basin section of Vail. In doing so, for a yet to be determined reason, the chair on the lift he attempted to take was folded up rather in the boardable down position.
In attempting to get on the ski lift, the man slipped through the chair that wasn’t appropriately aligned for a passenger. When that occurred, the man’s coat pulled up around his neck and snagged onto the ski lift chair. The man was drug forward and upward, the lift operators not stopping the transport as the event unfolded. The man was killed.
The county coroner reported that the man died as the result of positional asphyxia. In other words, after sliding through the chair, the man was strangled to death. Coroner Kara Bettis said that “we are still investigating how this whole situation happened. According to our initial investigation, the deceased slipped through the seat of the chair lift and his ski coat got caught up in the chair. The coat ended up going up around his head and neck area putting his neck in a position that compromised his airway.”
Numerous questions abound about the death of the New Jersey man, including potential negligence on the part of the Vail resort. Media representatives reached out to the coroner who referred questions to the Eagle County Sheriff who in turn referred questions to the resort. Vail released a statement which advised:
“We take all incidents seriously and are conducting a full investigation. The lift has been thoroughly inspected and is operating normally. Vail Mountain and the entire Vail Resorts family express our sincere condolences and extend our support to the guest’s family and friends.”
In fact, this isn’t the first time this type of incident occurred on this specific chairlift at Vail. Although not fatal, a man attempted to board this same chairlift when the seat wasn’t properly positioned. In this earlier case, the man slipped through the chair in the same manner that occurred last week. In this initial incident, the man survived. Rather than his ski clothing wrapping around his neck, the apparel was ripped off altogether. The man ended up suspended upside down from the lift chair – pantless.
Among the questions being raised in regard to the latest fatal incident involving this Vail ski lift are what safety protocols do the resort has in place to ensure that a ski lift chair is in a proper position before passenger attempts to board it? Were those protocols being followed? Does the resort have a system in place to identify emergencies when the lift is in motion?
If you or a loved one suffer injuries at a ski resort, you may be in a position to seek compensation for your losses. A ski accident injury attorney from The Doan Law Firm stands ready to discuss your case with you and provide an evaluation of your claim. A ski accident lawyer with our firm can be reached through our personal injury hotline at (800) 349-0000. Our hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including all major holidays. There is no charge for an initial consultation.
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