The family of a teenage boy killed in a 2005 avalanche on Mount Charleston recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit against the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort.
The lawsuit, brought by the family of 13-year-old Allen Brett Hutchison, alleged that the resort ignored warnings of the danger of an avalanche on the day Hutchison was killed. An avalanche swept Hutchison off a ski lift on Jan. 9, 2005, and buried him under two to four feet of snow. Rescue crews searched for Hutchison for more than six hours before they recovered his body. He died from asphyxia.
A federal investigation into the avalanche later found multiple safety violations at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, including failure to comply with its own avalanche control plan on the day Hutchison was killed. Details of the June settlement between Hutchison’s family and the defendants remain confidential. But both sides confirmed that a settlement was reached, effectively bringing an end to the lawsuit. The case was scheduled to go to trial in April 2010. The Hutchisons sued the resort in early 2006. The lawsuit accuses the resort of ignoring avalanche warnings in order to save money and sought more than $70,000 in damages.
Representatives of the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort said that the resort undertook new safety measures after Hutchison’s death, including the hiring of two safety experts to assess how to control avalanches. It also implemented a weather reporting station at the top of the chair lift Hutchison was riding at the time of the avalanche. The resort also now uses a 1943 Army howitzer to induce avalanches as a means to control them.
The Hutchison family had moved to Las Vegas from Northern California about two years before the tragic accident. On the day of the incident, Huthcison had gone snowboarding at Mount Charleston with his mother and 15-year-old sister.
He boarded a ski lift about 3 p.m. A 10- to 20-foot wave of snow swept over Hutchison and buried him. His sister was not with him at the time. The U.S. Forest Service investigated Hutchison’s death and safety protocols on the mountain in the aftermath of the fatality. It found that the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort didn’t deter skiers from entering the avalanche area, as required by emergency procedures.