SUGAR MOUNTAIN, N.C. (WBTV) – The family of a Tennessee child has filed a lawsuit in federal court after they said the young boy was stranded on a ski resort chairlift and had to jump down more than 30 feet.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday against Sugar Mountain Resort in North Carolina.
According to the lawsuit, the young boy, whose name was not released, was snowboarding at Sugar Mountain Resort on Feb. 14, 2016. Around 4:30 p.m., the boy boarded the “Gunther’s Way” chairlift solo.
When he got to the unloading area, the boy yelled over to the lift operator for assistance, but the operator was inside the lift hut, according to the lawsuit. The boy decided to ride the chairlift back down and get off at the bottom.
On the way down, the chairlift was shut down, according to the lawsuit, while the young boy was over a heavily wooded area about 30 feet in the air.
Snow was falling and the temperature was reportedly around 14 degrees when the lift stopped. The boy was stranded for nearly two hours, according to the lawsuit, and the temperature fell to 6 degrees.
After hours of yelling for help, the boy “became concerned about his ability to survive on the chairlift overnight” and was becoming sleepy.
Afraid that he would freeze or fall out of the chair, he took off his snowboard, grabbed the metal bar below the chair and let go – falling 30 feet to the frozen ground below.
The boy fractured a heel bone and a wrist in the fall and was knocked unconscious for a period of time. He crawled nearly 200 yards through the wooded area and another 300 yards down a ski run before he was found by night skiers.
According to the lawsuit, the boy was evacuated to Johnson City Medical Center where he was treated for “significant injuries,” including frostbite.
The lawsuit also claims that while the boy was stranded, his parents reported him missing to Sugar Mountain’s staff who were “dismissive,” even speculating that the boy probably wandered off the slopes.
Once a search started, the staff — the lawsuit claims — refused to search the Gunther’s Way lift “or even consider the possibility that [the boy] was stranded on the lift.”
Gunther Jochl, the owner of Sugar Mountain, said he was served with the lawsuit Tuesday and it had been turned over to his attorneys.
“Personally, I have seen the young man in recent months and he appeared fine,” Jochl told WBTV’s Steve Ohnesorge. “We have attorneys and I guess it is all in the court now.”
He said Sugar Mountain is “always conscious about the safety of our skiers.”