Mammoth Fined in Patroller Deaths

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Publish Date

10/11/2006

SAM Magazine-Mammoth Lakes, CA., Oct. 11, 2006-Last April, a tragic accident at Mammoth Mountain resulted in the deaths of three ski patrollers. James Juarez, John "Scott" McAndrews and Charles Walter Rosenthal all died from a fall into a volcanic fumarole inside the ski area boundary. The California Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) which oversees the state's workplace safety has determined that the deaths were the result of failures in Mammoth's training and safety procedures and has fined the resort approximately $50,000 for the violations.

"As a result of our investigation, inspectors determined that Mammoth Mountain Ski Area failed to have proper procedures in place to evaluate hazards associated with volcanic fumaroles and failed to provide training to employees performing rescue and medical duties associated with the dangerous fumaroles," said Len Welsh, Cal/OSHA acting chief. "If standard practices had been followed this catastrophic event might not have occurred."

The three patrollers perished on April 6, 2006. Both James Juarez and John "Scott" McAndrews fell approximately 20 feet through the snow pack into the fumarole while attempting to rope the area off and Charles Walter Rosenthal then died while attempting to rescue the two other patrollers. All three deaths were the result of lack of oxygen due to the presence of carbon dioxide gas.

Two $18,000 fines were assessed by Cal/OSHA for two serious accident related violations of Cal/OSHA regulations addressing training issues. OSHA's investigation also found that Mammoth failed to properly identify and evaluate the hazards for working near the areas of volcanic fumaroles, which were known to have high levels of carbon dioxide gas. A third serious citation was issued for not having proper warning signs to indicate a potentially hazardous situation at the location of the fumarole.

A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a violation of Cal/OSHA requirements.

In addition to the three serious violations, Mammoth Mountain Ski Area was issued general citations for not conducting proper internal atmosphere testing, not using proper engineering controls and not providing proper respirators for escape or rescue.

California law provides that a company may appeal Cal/OSHA citations and penalties within 15 working days to the Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board in Sacramento.

"The loss of three Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrollers in an accident on April 6, 2006 was a tragedy that broke our hearts and one that we will never forget," says a statement released by the resort. "It is Cal/OSHA's responsibility to conduct an investigation into any accident resulting in fatalities. As a result of their investigation, Cal/OSHA has issued a Citation and Notification of Penalty to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area."

"Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has reviewed the findings and intends to appeal each of the alleged violations to the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board," the statement adds. \

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