The family of a Texas woman who died after falling from a chairlift at a small Colorado ski resort as she was riding up with her two young daughters filed a wrongful death lawsuit Friday.
William Huber, the girls’ father, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Denver, claiming that staff at Ski Granby Ranch knew the lift was unsafe before the Dec. 29 accident that killed Kelly Huber, 40, of San Antonio, and severely injured her daughters, then 9 and 12.
The lift malfunctioned, and the chair the Hubers were riding hit a support tower at the resort about 50 miles northwest of Denver, causing the family to fall 25 feet (7.6 meters) onto hard-packed snow.
According to the lawsuit, a handful of passengers told resort staff they felt unsafe on the Quick Draw Express lift in the days before the fatal fall.
Two engineers who owned a home at Granby Ranch and were skiing at the resort a week before the accident described “an intense, high amplitude swinging and bounce” that was so significant that they had to hold onto something to stay on the chair, the lawsuit claims.
Another skier who was at the resort with her children Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 said the frequent stopping and swaying of the lift “would sometimes take her breath away.”
The resort’s “failure to respond to the concerns of its guests about the safety of the Quick Draw Express before December 29, 2016, constitutes gross negligence,” according to the lawsuit.
Melissa Cipriani, CEO of Ski Granby Ranch, said she could not comment because the resort is the subject of the lawsuit. The resort wrote on its Facebook page Wednesday, “We are excited to announce that the new drive has been installed on the Quick Draw lift … and inspected and licensed.”
Shortly before last ski season started, an independent contractor modified the electrical drive/control system of the Quick Draw Express lift, which started operating in late 1999.
A 151-page report released in May by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board determined that those changes, as well as rapid speed changes made by an operator, caused the fatal fall. The lift’s drive control system was blamed for creating pulses of energy along the rope line and “could explain the rope instability.”
Colorado regulators issued a license to operate the lift Dec. 15, 2016.
William Huber’s lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages, including compensation for treatment of his daughters’ post-traumatic stress disorder and their medical bills.
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