Snow and Avalanche Center 2008 Avalanche News

Talisker added to Lawsuit over deadly in-bounds avalanche at The Canyons
07/29/2008 05:34:06 PM MDT

A wrongful death lawsuit filed in response to an in-bounds avalanche at The Canyons now names Talisker Corp. officials who recently purchased the ski resort, which is the largest in Utah.

The 175-foot-wide slide that killed 30-year-old Jesse Williams, of Grand Junction, Colo., happened at The Canyons Dec. 23. The victim's mother and wife sued The Canyons in May claiming patrollers at the resort were not trained properly to maintain safe conditions on the mountain.

But lawyers amended the 3rd District Court lawsuit July 15 to include as defendants The Talisker Partnership, Talisker Canyons Finance Co., Talisker chief Jack Bistricer, Canyons Managing Director Mike Goar and 10 other people whose names are not identified.

Wolf Mountain Resorts, which controls land at The Canyons, former Canyons parent American Skiing Company and The Canyons, are also defendants in the case.

Salt Lake resident Kyle Williams, the slide victim's mother, and the victim's wife, Colorado resident Gina Williams filed the lawsuit.

"It's very unfortunate," said Highland Estates resident Jim Coe, the victim's father-in-law. "Had [ski patrollers] done their jobs correctly, this never would have happened."

The avalanche also trapped 11-year-old Max Zilvitis near the Ninety-Nine 90 Express lift. The Snyderville Basin boy survived after he was buried for about 40 minutes.

During the sale of The Canyons last year, "Talisker Canyons was obligated to indemnify [American Skiing Co. and The Canyons] for any losses and capital expenditures sustained in the operation of [the resort,]"' the amended complaint states.

"Because of this obligation, ASC and [The Canyons] allowed Talisker Canyons, various Talisker entities and Talisker principal Jack Bistricer to assume control of and influence over the operations of [the resort,]" the lawsuit states. "This was despite Jack Bistricer's admission that he personally and Talisker generally lacked experience and were not qualified to operate a ski resort."

Inadequate staffing and "bottlenecks" at lifts prompted patrollers to open an area that was not safe, an attorney for Williams claims.

"Defendants breached their duties by failing to warn the public of dangers of in-bounds avalanches," the lawsuit states. "The negligence is demonstrated by the fact that Mike Goar was unable to identify the location where Mr. Williams was killed let alone identify the precautions against avalanches which had been taken."

But ski patrollers claimed they detonated around 170 pounds of explosives in the area Williams died the day before the deadly slide. Officials at Talisker and The Canyons were not immediately available to comment about the amended complaint, which seeks monetary damages.

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