An investigation into the death of Kelly Huber at the Sky Granby Ranch in December of 2016 continues, although mechanical malfunction of the ski lift from which she fell was “likely caused by modifications an independent contractor made to the ride before the start of the ski season,” according to the ranch.
On the morning of December 29, the 40-year-old Huber and her two daughters, ages 9 and 12, were riding the Quick Draw Express ski lift up a hill at Sky Granby Ranch when their quad chair began swinging erratically.
Allen McGirl, who was sitting three chairs behind them when the accident occurred, told Denver7, “I noticed it started swinging side-by-side sideways...and then they got to the next pole and the actual chairlift hit the pole."
The force of the ski lift chair striking the pole launched Huber and her two daughters out of the chair, and they fell 25 feet onto the hard packed snow. The girls were injured, but survived, while the mother was pronounced dead at the hospital. The coroner reported that her cause of death was “blunt force trauma to her torso and a traumatic rupture of her aorta.” The family did not have the chair's safety bar down at the time of the accident; however, they are not being held responsible for their injuries.
In fact, a preliminary report of the accident released by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board said that “the circumstances indicated that environmental factors, weather, and the occupants of Chair #58 did not contribute to the cause of the incident." While the board was very clear about who and what did not cause the accident, they were more vague about the true cause, blaming “a rare dynamic event" for the death, while a longer investigation is launched.
This initial report allowed the ski lift to reopen a couple of weeks after its use was suspended. According to a local news report, the lift that likely caused Huber's death had been inspected just 24 days before the tragic incident. In the inspector's report, he wrote that there was a “minor issue” with the interaction between the chairlift's new electric motor drive and it's older control system and brake module.
Colorado is the only state that requires ski lift inspectors to be engineers and has some of the strictest standards. The last death attributed to chairlift malfunction in the United States was in 1993. All other deaths resulting from chair lift falls have been due to passenger error.
While no personal injury lawsuit has yet been filed, product malfunctions such as this one can be the basis for successful civil suits, as well as premise liability for the ranch that maintained and operated the lift. If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident at a recreation facility, it may be time to consult with a legal profession on your case. Call the Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal today at (303) 825-2223 for a free case evaluation or contact us online.