Man dies in mishap at Heavenly
August 31, 2009
A 51-year-old man from Glendora, Calif., died after falling from a chairlift at Heavenly Mountain Resort on Monday afternoon, and his newlywed wife was injured in the incident, authorities said.
Mark Alan Dickson fell about 50 feet from the Tamarack Express chairlift about 1:50 p.m., according to reports from Heavenly and the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office.
The incident remains under investigation, but an apparent malfunction of the Heavenly Flyer ZipRider caused a retrieval rope from the zip line to become entangled with the chairlift, said El Dorado County Sheriff’s Lt. Les Lovell.
The rope – used to bring the ZipRider’s harnesses back to the top of the ride -apparently caught the chair’s safety bar, pulled the bar open and caused the chair to swing, Lovell said. The swinging chair pitched Dickson onto the dirt and rocks below, Lovell said.
An autopsy is expected later this week, although initial indications suggest Dickson died from massive trauma to his upper body, Lovell said.
Preliminary reports that the woman also fell from the chair were inaccurate, Lovell said.
Recommended Stories For You
The woman, 47-year-old Rebecca Gonzaga, suffered a leg injury and was taken to Barton Memorial Hospital for treatment. Her injuries were not considered life-threatening.
The couple, who were on their honeymoon, planned to make South Lake Tahoe their home, Lovell said.
Heavenly Mountain Resort spokesman Russ Pecoraro said ski patrol personnel were in the area at the time of the incident and responded immediately to provide medical aid.
The man was transported to Heavenly’s California lodge first aid station, where he was pronounced dead about 3:15 p.m.
Pecoraro said the Heavenly Flyer was operating within its allowable wind conditions on Monday afternoon.
Four other guests on the lift at the time were evacuated.
“At this point all indicators lead us to that this was accidental; it was a very freak accident,” Lovell said.
The Heavenly Flyer ZipRider was closed immediately following the incident and will remain closed while the sheriff’s office investigates the incident, Pecoraro said.
An investigation into the incident is likely to wrap up next week, Lovell said.
— Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter Adam Jensen contributed to this story.