The investigation into the fatal chairlift accident at Ski Granby Ranch on Dec. 29 has “identified issues within the chairlift’s electrical qickdraw express esizedrive/control system that contributed to a rare dynamic event that occurred on the lift at the time of the incident,” according to a report from the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board. In addition, the report said that the chair in which a Texas mom and her two daughters were riding struck a lift tower a third of the way up the mountain before the three fell 25 feet to the ground.
Kelly Huber, of San Antonio, was riding the chairlift at the Ski Granby Ranch, in Colorado, with her girls – aged nine and 12 – when all three fell.
The CPTSB report provides the first official details of what led up to the fall. The report notes that “the circumstances indicated that environmental factors, weather and the occupants of (the chair) did not contribute to the cause of the incident. The facts of the incident show that, on Dec. 29, 2016, an unreasonable hazard existed in the continued operation of the lift.”
Granby police say witnesses reported Huber and her daughters were not involved in any horseplay before they came off the chair, nor did witnesses report any kind of intentional or user-caused accidental fall.
The Grand County Coroner determined that the mom, 40-year-old Kelly Huber, died from blunt force trauma to her torso and a traumatic rupture of her aorta. One daughter was treated at a local hospital and released, but a second was airlifted to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver in serious condition. The family has requested that no details of her condition be released.
The CPTSB has allowed the resort to reopen the lift, but directed that the resort power the lift with its diesel backup drive rather than the electrical drive that was in operation at the time of the accident. The state also imposed new inspection requirements on the resort. As part of an agreement to reopen the lift, Ski Granby Ranch will run the Quickdraw Express below its rated speed capacity of 900 feet per minute, increasing the speed to 800 feet per minute over a five-day period.
“Operator will increase surveillance and inspection of the lift,” the board’s report, an operating agreement with Ski Granby Ranch, said. It added: “Upon finding any irregular conditions or operation of the lift, Operator shall immediately and safely slow and shut down the lift, evacuate all passengers from the lift, and immediately report such irregular conditions or operations.”
In a statement Monday night, Ski Granby Ranch CEO Melissa Cipriani said the Quickdraw Express lift was load-tested Dec. 5, before the resort’s ski season began Dec. 16. She said the Huber family’s fall was the first incident of its kind in the resort’s 22 years of operation and that the lift has been operating safely since its installation.
The resort did not comment following the release of the CPTSB report. Lee Rasizer, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, told 9News Denver that the investigation into the incident was continuing, and no one from the state would comment.