Attorney wants Sunlight to accept some blame in accident
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The attorney representing a Sunlight Mountain Resort ski school student hit March 15 by a suspected drunken snowboarder said Wednesday he’s “disappointed” that resort officials deny all responsibility in the crash.
Denver attorney Jim Chalat is representing the family of Reilly Malone – the most seriously injured of three ski school students allegedly hit by snowboarder Michael Wolff – in a lawsuit against Wolff.
Chalat said the resort is using the Colorado Skier Safety Act to dodge responsibility in the crash.
“They say they’re immune and they have no responsibility,” Chalat said Wednesday. “It’s a disappointment because I would hope they’d accept some responsibility.”
He described the Colorado Skier Safety Act as “special interest legislation” that makes it difficult to hold ski resorts liable for accidents.
“They paid for it and they’re going to use it,” Chalat said.
Sunlight general manager Tom Jankovsky said, “We are very sorry and very concerned about the kids hurt in the class. These kids were under the care of a very good ski instructor who felt awful about having this happen to her class.
“In some ways we feel a victim of this incident, as a corporation,” Jankovsky said.
Chalat said he’s spoken to one witness who said Wolff was noticeably intoxicated while in the lift line at the base of the mountain. Another man who spoke to the Post Independent in March also said Wolff appeared to be drunk while riding on a chairlift.
Jankovsky said Sunlight conducted its own investigation of the incident. He declined to comment on Wolff’s behavior before the crash.
Meanwhile, a plea agreement for Wolff, a 20-year-old Killeen, Texas, resident, was delayed for a third time on Thursday.
Wolff’s attorney, public defender Jamie Roth, told 9th District Judge James Boyd she thought she was close to reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors, but no deal has yet been offered. The case was continued until June 26.
Chalat said he can’t move forward with the civil suit until the criminal proceedings are finished.
Chalat also said while the Malone family does plan to move forward with the civil suit, they’re not “looking to put him in jail and throw away the key.”
“He’s spent more time in jail than any other offender in a ski-related accident,” Chalat said.
Wolff was arrested March 15 on suspicion of slamming into a group of 5- and 6-year-olds in a ski class at Sunlight Mountain Resort. Witnesses said Wolff was visibly intoxicated.
Three children were hurt in the crash. One suffered a broken leg, one suffered a bruised arm and the third had minor injuries.
Wolff has been held at the Garfield County Jail on $15,000 bond since the crash.
Wolff is charged with felony child abuse causing serious bodily injury, misdemeanor child abuse causing injury, two counts of reckless endangerment and one count of underage possession or consumption of alcohol.
If convicted on all counts, Wolff could face five to 18 years in prison and more than $750,000 in fines for his alleged part in the crash.
– GSPI Managing Editor Heather McGregor contributed to this report.
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