New York skier’s heirs sue Idaho rescuers for $5M
DRIGGS, Idaho – The family of a New York man who skied outside the boundaries of a western Wyoming ski area and was rescued the following morning but later died of hypothermia has filed a wrongful death claim.
Edward J. Fitzgerald made contact with a sheriff dispatcher in Idaho using a cell phone after he realized he was lost last winter.
The claim contends Idaho officials botched the rescue attempt and failed to communicate with Wyoming rescuers trying to locate the 46-year-old after he went outside Grand Targhee Resort boundaries, which the claim says weren’t adequately marked.
Named in the claim filed last month are the Teton County Sheriff’s Department in Idaho, Teton County, Idaho Search and Rescue, and others. Fitzgerald’s heirs are seeking $5 million in damages.
Teton County officials did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Sunday.
Fitzgerald, of Forest Hills, N.Y., called 9-1-1 at 7:37 p.m. and 7:43 p.m. on Jan. 19, court documents said. Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford in Idaho authorized the county and Idaho Search and Rescue to enter Wyoming to find Fitzgerald, according to the documents.
The claim contends that Idaho officials didn’t tell Wyoming rescuers that Fitzgerald said he was by a stream, or that his cell phone battery was getting low.
The claim also states that when rescuers found Fitzgerald’s tracks just before midnight, the rescuers didn’t search South Leigh Canyon, making “the grossly negligent and reckless decision to postpone the search until the next morning.”
Rescuers have previously said they followed the tracks for about an hour but eventually called off the search for the night because of avalanche concerns, rough terrain and poor visibility.
The claim also contends that once Fitzgerald was found unconscious and unresponsive about 8:45 a.m. on Jan. 20, there was an “unjustified” delay of more than two hours before he was taken to a medical facility.
Information from: Teton Valley News – Driggs, http://www.tetonvalleynews.net