Lifestyle & Human Interest

Father's 'Worst Nightmare' Unfolds When Son, 4, Falls Off Ski Lift in 'Terrifying' Malfunction


It was supposed to be a fun day on the slopes with his kids, but it turned into a nightmare for Nathan McLeod.

McLeod boarded a chairlift at Montana Snowbowl on March 19 with his 4-year-old son Sawyer, according to the Missoulian.

“All of a sudden, our chair smashes into the tower,” he said.

Instinctively, McLeod grabbed for his son, but he wasn’t able to get a good grip on the boy.

“And just like that, I reach for my son and he just slips from my arms,” McLeod said.

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As the dad watched in helpless horror, Sawyer fell an estimated 12 to 15 feet.

The chairlift operator stopped the ride, but McLeod’s troubles weren’t over.

“As Sawyer is falling, the lift chair just breaks apart and it just flips backwards,” he told the Missoulian. “The backrest just falls off the back, and so I’m, like, clinging on to the center bar while the chair is swinging.

“My son is screaming and I don’t know what to do. I’m like, ‘Do I jump right now?’”

Eventually, he did just that. After removing his skis, McLeod lowered himself as far as he could from the broken chairlift seat and dropped the rest of the way to the snow below.

Fortunately, both McLeod and his son were unhurt, but the frightened dad was upset by the reaction of the staff, who quickly restarted the lift and failed to offer any medical attention to the two.

McLeod told the Missoulian he’s been haunted by flashbacks of the terrifying experience.

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“This is a parent’s worst nightmare,” he said. “I’m just watching him fall and he’s looking at me. There’s nothing I can do and he’s screaming. I just have this mental image of his whole body slipping out of my arms and it’s terrible.”

A man who witnessed the accident agreed.

“It was kind of terrifying,” Corey Stickle said. “It’s a toddler falling from a f***ing lift, man. That’s the scariest thing you can see. The [chairlift operator] did a good job. She kept her cool. It was the chair that was set up by Snowbowl that failed.”

The ski resort later issued an apology, which was posted on Facebook.

“On Sunday, March 19th, there was an incident involving the Snowpark chair lift. Unfortunately, the incident resulted in a child falling off the lift after the chair struck Tower 1 immediately after loading,” the statement said.

“We want to extend our sincerest apologies to the child and his family. We fully realize the impact this incident has had on them and the community.

“The safety of our customers is paramount to Snowbowl’s management and staff, and we are committed to investigating the cause of this incident and making any required changes.”

The statement said the chairlift in question has been closed and engineers are addressing the problem.

“In addition, we are continuing to review the operating procedures and safety protocols in place,” the statement said.

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Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.
Lorri Wickenhauser has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona. She joined The Western Journal in 2021.