Video shows snowboarder’s 45-foot plunge from chairlift

Posted at 7:58 PM, Feb 22, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-22 21:58:51-05

SALT LAKE CITY - The video of a New Mexico snowboarder plunging four stories from a moving chairlift has gone viral.

On Feb. 2, 17-year-old Jacob Gutierrez was riding the ski lift at the Ski Santa Fe Resort. He threw a snowball at his friends on the lift in front of him, then lost his balance.

Gutierrez was able to hang on to the lift for six minutes and unclip his snowboard before more than 45 feet to the rocky area below.

Gutierrez told local news reporters that he thought he was going to die. He survived, but suffered liver damage, tears to his lungs and a skull fracture.

The video of Gutierrez' fall was posted on YouTube on Monday and has already got nearly 2.3 million views.

A similar situation at Park City Mountain Resort was caught on video, this time a teen hangs by a backpack from a chairlift. The teen struggled to breath but was finally able to unhinge the backpack and fall, causing only minor injuries.

Safety experts in Colorado say the video is the perfect example of of how dangerous horseplay can be on a chairlift. The National Ski Areas Association says almost 90 percent of chairlift accidents are caused by human error.

"Our younger skiers may become inattentive and forget about what the task at hand is, which is to focus on what you're doing while riding that chair. At the end of the day it comes down to personal responsibility," said Troy Hawks, spokesperson for the National Ski Areas Association.

The Summit County Health Dept. says chairlift accidents are so rare, they don't track statistics. The NSAA reports only 13 ski lift fatalities since the early 1970s.