4-Year-Old Falls from Chairlift at Ski Resort in Montana, Says Father: 'Parent's Worst Nightmare'
"I reach for my son, and he just slips from my arms," shared Nathan McLeod, who said his toddler fell from a chairlift on Sunday
A father is speaking out after his child experienced what he claimed to be a 12-to-15-feet fall at a ski resort in Montana.
Nathan McLeod told The Missoulian that he and his 4-year-old son, Sawyer, were riding the Montana Snowbowl chairlift at the Lolo National Forest on Sunday when their chair allegedly hit a tower, throwing his son from their seat.
McLeod and the toddler shared one chair while his other son, 6-year-old Cassidy, rode a chair ahead with a snowboarder, according to the publication.
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"We're going and I'm watching Cassidy's chair in front of me and it's just, like, huge, violent swings and in my mind, I don't know what to do about that, because I'm [in] a chair behind him," explained McLeod to the daily newspaper.
"I'm worried he's gonna hit that next tower. And it's like 40 feet off the ground at that point. As that's going through my head, all of a sudden, our chair smashes into the tower, the first one, as it starts going up."
McLeod said that he reached for his son, but that he slipped "from my arms," adding: "This is a parent's worst nightmare."
The father recalled that, after the fall, the lift attendant went up to his son to give him a hug. It is unclear if the child sustained any injuries.
"And then the attendant is just like, 'Watch out, we're gonna start the lift again.' Not a single person looks at the chair. You don't walk up to make sure the cable isn't mangled? I would assume they would want to, like, check it out?" he added about the moments after the incident.
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"She just starts loading the next people in line. I'm just shaking because there's so much adrenaline. And somebody makes an offhand comment like, 'Yeah, that's Snowbowl, ha ha.' "
The Montana Snowbowl and the Montana Snowbowl Patrol did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.
Sharing that he is unsatisfied with the resort's response, McLeod told the outlet, "What other chairs are deficient and just getting painted over, who knows? My worry is we got extremely lucky. If conditions had been different, Sawyer could have been killed. If nothing changes, is someone going to die?"
In a statement to The Missoulian, Andy Morris — whose family owns Snowbowl — said that the chairlift was inspected by one of its engineers and that "there was an unbalanced load that caused the lift to swing."
"It's a Riblet lift, and our engineer said Riblet chairs are light and they get to swaying pretty badly when they misload or something causes them to get going," added Morris.
Being that the resort operates on Lolo National Forest land under a special-use permit, its land management agency has asked for the chairlift to be shut down until an investigation is completed.
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"Public safety has to be, and is, our top priority and concern," Lolo National Forest Supervisor Carolyn Upton said, per The Missoulian.
"There are lots of activities and businesses under permits on National Forest land, and Snowbowl is an important partner and one of our permittees," Upton added. "When we have something happen our first concern is public safety and then we're going to look at the permit and what gets triggered."
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A Snowbowl chairlift also reportedly malfunctioned in January 2020, when a chair fell from the lift as two people were coming off their seats. According to ABC FOX Montana, no passengers were injured during the chairlift malfunction.
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