SALT LAKE CITY — A University of Utah student suffered a seizure before she fell from a chairlift at a Park City ski resort and died in an extremely rare case of a fatality on a properly functioning lift, authorities and industry officials said Monday.
Asha Davenport, 19, was riding the lift at the Canyons Resort with friends Sunday when she fell about 30 feet, Summit County sheriff's Sgt. David Edmunds said.
Medical personnel arrived within minutes, but the woman's injuries were too severe. She died at the scene around 12:30 p.m.
Canyons spokesman Steve Pastorino said the woman was on the High Meadow lift, which serves the mid-mountain area largely leading to beginners' slopes and ranges from roughly 15 to 50 feet off the ground.
Pastorino said it wasn't immediately clear if the woman and her friends had been using the lift's safety bar.
Davenport suffered "severe trauma," Edmunds said. He did not elaborate on her medical condition.
Pastorino said the lift did not malfunction and after a brief delay, continued service throughout the day.
Chairlift deaths and injuries are uncommon, although national records are spotty because resorts aren't required to report every incident, said Dave Byrd, a spokesman for the National Ski Areas Association.
Byrd said the association's records show that the Canyons fatality and that of a child less than two months ago at California's Sugar Bowl Ski Resort are the only reported cases of skiers falling to their death from a properly functioning chairlift during operating hours at commercial ski areas.
The association reports that malfunctioning lifts caused 13 deaths between 1973 and 1993 – and none since then, although there have been numerous injuries.
In some of the most notorious U.S. cases, according to the ski association's records, two people died and dozens were injured in 1985 at Colorado's Keystone Ski Resort when a lift malfunctioned. In 1976, a gondola accident in Vail killed four people, while two years later at California's Squaw Valley, four people died when high winds derailed a lift's cable.
"For 18 years now, we've had no fatality related to a chair lift failure," Byrd said. "It points to how wonderfully safe uphill transportation is."