According to an Eagle County Sheriff’s Office incident report released Wednesday, a Vail lift operator was not paying attention when a New Jersey man suffocated after his coat got caught on the lift and kept him from breathing.
The Associated Press reports Jason Varnish, 46, died of positional asphyxia at Vail Mountain’s Blue Sky Basin area Feb. 13. He had been skiing with a friend and the men were attempting to board a chairlift when Varnish’s clothing caught on a rubber stopper on the seat. Varnish was lifted 20 to 25 feet off the ground as his companion hollered to the lift operator to stop the lift.
“The lift operator was not paying attention and had been cleaning off snow in the area. Jason was struggling, trying to get unhooked and getting his coat unzipped.” –taken from report
Bystanders tried unsuccessfully to form a human pyramid to push up Varnish’s legs and feet. The operator initially said he could not reverse the lift without permission. The death was ruled an accident.