January 12, 2011

Skiers hurt in Maine derailment hire law firm

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Spillway East Chairlift, Sugarloaf Mountain
click image to enlarge

A rope prevents access to the Spillway East chairlift on the day after the Dec. 28 cable derailment that left eight skiers injured when five chairs fell to the ground. Michael Katz, a state senator from Delaware, and his two young daughters were among those injured.

2010 AP file

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Rick Tonge, 54, an investment adviser, was taken to Franklin Memorial Hospital, X-rayed and released. He suffered a muscle injury and is gradually getting back to normal activity, he said, although he is not yet ready to ski again.

His 25-year-old son was among the most seriously injured, and was taken by ambulance to Maine Med.

Andy Tonge suffered compression fractures in two vertebrae and spent two days in the Portland hospital, his father said. He is now wearing a brace to immobilize his spine and, after an extra week recuperating at his parents' home, has returned to Baltimore to pursue a doctorate in engineering.

"He'll be in a brace for 12 weeks," Rick Tonge said. "He's functional. He's back at school. He's stiff."

Tonge said he could not discuss potential legal claims.

"I don't want to talk to about what we may or may not do because we haven't decided anything yet. We're trying to heal first," he said.

Tonge said he and his son have medical insurance that is covering some of their costs. He also said Sugarloaf officials called him after the accident and before he retained the law firm.

"We had a couple conversations with (Sugarloaf officials)," he said. "I think we're pretty conscious of the risk we think we're taking (in skiing), and that involves trees and other skiers and that stuff. You don't expect the chair to try and kill you."

Maine law that dates to the late 1970s says skiers accept inherent risks, and it protects ski resorts from lawsuits in the vast majority of injury cases, lawyers said. On the other hand, the law specifically says resorts are responsible for maintenance and safe operation of the lifts.

Tonge said he feels lucky that there was soft powder under Spillway East when he and his son fell.

"Hey, we're on the right side of the daisies," he said.


Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: jrichardson@pressherald.com


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