State won’t investigate Buttermilk lift accident
The circumstances of Friday’s chairlift accident at Buttermilk probably won’t warrant an investigation by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, an official said Monday.
“At this point there is no formal investigation,” said Angie Kinnard, the state agency’s program administrator. “I think we just have very unfortunate, and sad, circumstances.”
No investigation will be launched unless new information surfaces, she added.
Two passengers, a father and his son, fell off the Summit Express high-speed quad lift at 10:10 a.m. Friday. The 8-year-old boy was treated for minor injuries and released from Aspen Valley Hospital, according to the Aspen Skiing Co.
His father wasn’t so lucky. The 44-year-old Florida man tumbled off the lift seconds after his son fell. He suffered a broken leg and cracked pelvis, according to the Skico report.
The mishap occurred right after the man, his son and two other youths got onto the lift at the Butter-milk base. Skico spokeswoman Rose Abello acknowledged that the lift operator failed to follow proper procedure while loading the chair.
The boy who fell was never properly seated and the lift operator ran alongside the chair trying to stabilize him rather than immediately shutting the lift down, according to Abello.
The boy fell by the time the chair reached the second tower along the lift. His father fell a split second later, before the chair reached tower three.
The Skico alerted the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board within 24 hours of the accident, as its rules require, said Kinnard. The agency considered the circumstances and made a preliminary determination that none of its rules or regulations were violated, she said.
The safety board’s rules require that only one operator has to be working a lift. That was reportedly the case at the Summit Express chair Friday.
There was no evidence of mechanical difficulties associated with the accident, further ruling out the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board’s launching of a study, Kinnard said.
The safety board tests new chairlifts and routinely checks existing equipment at ski areas. It also investigates lift accidents when there is evidence its rules have been violated.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.