Vail settles wrongful death lawsuit New Jersey investment banker dad accidentally HANGED himself
Upmarket ski resort Vail settles wrongful death lawsuit after New Jersey investment banker dad-of-three accidentally HANGED himself while boarding chair lift
- The family of Jason Varnish, 46, from New Jersey who died while riding a chairlift at Vail Ski Resort has settled their lawsuit against the resort
- He died in February 2020 when a rubber bumper on the back of his chairlift caught his jacket, lifted him off his feet, causing him to hang by his coat
- Varnish was hanged for more than eight minutes and was asphyxiated
The family of 46-year-old Jason Varnish who died while riding a chairlift at Vail Ski Resort in Colorado, have settled their lawsuit against the resort.
It was February 2020, when the dad-of-three was riding the chair lift in Blue Sky Basin when the seat of the chair was set upright against the backrest.
Instead of the seat folding down for Varnish to sit upon, the chair lift instead caught his jacket and he became entangled, lifting him off his feet as the chair rose into the air.
Varnish was left dangling from the chair, 10 feet off the ground for more than eight minutes.
His jacket tightened around him and constricted his ability to breathe, leading to his death from positional asphyxiation.
Jason Varnish, 46, of Short Hills, New Jersey, died of positional asphyxia after his coat became entangles on a chair lift causing him to be hanged
Jason Varnish, 46, of Short Hills, New Jersey, died of positional asphyxia at Vail Mountain’s Blue Sky Basin area (file photo)
Varnish had been skiing with his friend Steven Skolnick and both were attempting to get on board the chair lift, but the seat was in an upward position.
As they attempted to board, the men tried to push the seat down, but Skolnick fell.
Skolnick told Deputy Devan Salazar of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office how he ‘hollered to the lift operator to stop the lift,’ but ‘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,’ the report detailed.
Skolnick, together with several onlookers attempted to reach Varnish’s feet in an attempt to push him upwards and relieve the pressure on him as it became clear he was choking.
Skolnick ‘told the lift operator to reverse the lift,’ the report details.
Initially, the lift operator said he was not able to reverse the lift without permission but eventually did so.
Varnish was ‘cut down’. He was unconscious and CPR had to be performed.
The Varnish family filed a lawsuit against Vail in Eagle County District Court, alleging the resort had violated provisions of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and the rules of the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board.
Blue Sky Basin was closed about 24 hours after the accident, and reopened around midday Friday. A map of the resort is seen above
The lawsuit made ‘factual allegations’ against Vail and cited a failure in training and procedures to safely evacuate someone hanging from a chairlift, among other findings.
Vail Resorts contested the claims, arguing that the waiver and release provisions on Varnish’s ski pass and rental equipment documents barred the complaint from being filed in the first place by Varnish’s children.
However, shortly before the trial, and almost three years after his death, a settlement has been reached. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Attorney for the family, Peter Burg, called it an ‘unnecessary and preventable tragedy’ that had left a ‘gaping hole’ in the hearts of Varnish’s loved ones.
The tragedy raised serious questions about safety protocols at ski resorts and the adequacy of regulations governing chairlifts.
The Varnish family’s hope is that their lawsuit will lead to greater accountability and improved safety measures at ski resorts, ultimately preventing future accidents like the one that took Varnish’s life.