Mother files lawsuit over 2010 cable car accident
September 21, 2011
The mother of a 21-year-old man who drowned in the Colorado River in June 2010, while working to help build the Glenwood Canyon Resort zip line, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages.
Taylor Chisholm of Covington, La., was working for the Glenwood Canyon Resort near No Name, located about two miles east of Glenwood Springs, when the accident occurred on June 2, 2010.
Chisholm and two co-workers were transporting equipment across the runoff-swollen river using a cable car that had been in place for some 30 years, when the basket they were riding in sagged too low and plunged into the rushing current.
Chisholm, who was not wearing a life vest, was thrown into the water and drowned. His body was discovered 16 days later, several miles downstream near the town of Parachute.
His mother, Andrea Chisholm, also of Covington, La., is the sole plaintiff in a lawsuit filed Sept. 15 in U.S. District Court in Denver by her Denver attorneys, Murray Ogborn and Michael Cross.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Rock Gardens Rafting, Glenwood Canyon Zip Line Adventures; the owner of the cable car, Joseph McKeel; and Chisholm’s supervisor that day, Jeffrey Hale.
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According to the lawsuit, Chisholm was a seasonal employee working for Rock Gardens Mobile Home Park and Campground. He occasionally performed tasks for his employer’s sister company, Glenwood Canyon Adventures, the suit alleges.
At the time, the resort was constructing three, 350-foot zip lines across the Colorado River.
The cable car transport system was used to reach property across the river owned by McKeel, who had given permission for its use to build the zip line’s towers, the lawsuit alleges.
Chisholm and his co-workers were transporting a generator, shovels and post hole diggers across the river when the accident happened.
“Hale, after assessing the situation, decided a crossing with four individuals and the equipment in the car would be unsafe [and decided not to ride the car],” the lawsuit alleges.
The other three men, who were not provided with life vests, released the cable car, which is powered by gravity midway across the river before a hand crank is used for the ascent up to the opposite bank.
However, “As a result of the combined weight of the three men and the construction equipment, the cable car sagged significantly, causing the cable car to plunge into the high water of the Colorado … ejecting Chisholm,” according to the lawsuit.
“Defendants knew or should have known the danger posed by use of the cable car at a time when the flow of the Colorado River was at such high volume,” the lawsuit alleges.
The river was running at about 13,000 cubic feet per second at that time.
Andrea Chisholm is requesting a jury trial to award damages, including for both economic and non-economic losses.
Glenwood Canyon Resort owner Kevin Schneider was not available for comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.
At a press conference the day after the accident, Schneider said that life preservers or other flotation devices are not standard operating procedure when using the cable car to haul equipment across the river. He said the cable basket has been used to haul gear and equipment across the river for close to 30 years.
The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue spent two days searching the river for any sign of Chisholm.
The search was suspended after the second day due to the dangerous river conditions, though employees with Glenwood Canyon Resort continued searching the river using their own rafts.
A student at Louisiana State University, Chisholm had reportedly been in Colorado for about five weeks when the accident happened.