The parents of a five-year-old girl who was killed in a Hogadon Ski Area accident in 2010 have filed a lawsuit against the ski patrol and city of Casper, Wyo., for wrongful death, negligence and personal injuries. The civil lawsuit filed in Natrona County District Court says the Casper Mountain Ski Patrol and city failed to protect the girl from an intoxicated person snowboarding “recklessly” at “excessive speeds.” The Johnson family seeks payment for medical expenses and other monetary damages as allowed by state law.
The accident happened on Christmas Eve of 2010, when 23-year-old Craig Shirley was snowboarding on the “Dreadnaught run” and collided with Kelli Johnson and her daughter, Elise. Kelli Johnson suffered serious injuries in the crash and, sadly, Elise was killed. Shirley, the snowboarder, was also killed. It’s alleged in the complaint that the Dreadnaught run was slick by the afternoon of December 24th, the time when the mother and daughter were skiing. Reportedly, the black-diamond Dreadnaught run requires high skill levels and had just opened for the season at the city-owned ski area when this incident occurred.
It was reported that Kelli and Elise Johnson made it partway down Dreadnaught when Elise’s skis came off. The two were the only skiers on the run at the time. They came to a stop about the same time Shirley began the run. Shirley was estimated to have traveled at speeds of 40 to 50 mph and appeared intoxicated earlier in the day. A toxicology report later showed Shirley had a small amount of cannabinoids in his system. It appears that an investigation found that Shirley committed no criminal offense at the time of the accident.
But it was alleged in the complaint that in the past Shirley had been cited for snowboarding recklessly, sometimes at high speeds, and was known for his dangerous behavior. Despite this, Hogadon Ski Area employees allowed Shirley on the slopes. It was alleged further that ski patrol members who were nearby watching Shirley’s speedy descent did not instruct him to stop or warn the Johnsons. The lawsuit claims that as a result the ski patrol and city have responsibility for Elise Johnson’s death. The Spence Law Firm, based in Jackson, Wyo., represents the Johnson family in this case.
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