Mom Who Fell to Her Death from Colorado Ski Lift Did Not Have Safety Bar Down: 'It Was Devastating,' Says Witness

Kelly Huber, 40, of San Antonio, Texas, and her two daughters, aged 12 and 9, fell about 25 feet to the snow below.

A man who witnessed a mother and her two daughters falling out of a chairlift at a Colorado ski resort, killing the woman, says he saw their chair swinging before the incident and worried for the family because their safety bar was not down.

Allen McGirl, 44, was three chairs behind the family at the Granby Ranch Ski Resort in Granby, Colorado, on Thursday when he noticed their chair swinging forward and backward as it traveled up the lift, and then side to side, he tells PEOPLE.

“We were all like, why are they swinging so much? What’s going on? Why isn’t their safety bar down? Are they screwing around?” McGirl says.

City officials confirm to PEOPLE that the family’s safety bar was not down during the ride.

At about the halfway point in the 10-minute ride, McGirl says, “It looked like the chair hit the pole or the sign and then it ejected them.”

Source: Kelly Huber/Facebook

Kelly Huber, 40, of San Antonio, Texas, and her two daughters, aged 12 and 9, fell about 25 feet to the snow below. Huber was taken to Middle Park Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 10:46 a.m., Granby Police Chief Jim Kraker tells PEOPLE. She died of traumatic separation of the aorta from the heart, and also suffered trauma to her upper torso, he said.

Huber’s 12-year-old daughter was treated at the hospital and released, Schelly Olson, public information officer for Granby incident command, tells PEOPLE. The 9-year-old was flown to Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora. Her condition has not been released and the family is not commenting, according to the hospital.

Olson confirmed that the safety bar on the family’s chairlift was not down. “The bar is optional for riders,” she said.

Granby Ranch closed the Quickdraw Lift after the accident and it will remain closed until an inspection by the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board and lift manufacturer is complete, according to a statement on its Facebook page.

“Granby Ranch is deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic incident at our resort,” the post read. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of our guest. Granby Ranch places the highest value on the health and safety of our guests.”

Granby Ranch and the Safety Board did not return PEOPLE’s calls for comment.

Huber was a long-time employee at Aetna health insurance company, most recently serving as vice president, director of National Producer Programs, according to her LinkedIn page. She was engaged to be married, according to her fiancé’s Facebook page. He declined PEOPLE’s request for comment.

McGirl said after the family plunged to the ground, they lay motionless as he and other passengers screamed and shouted for the operators to stop the chairlift. “I got a deep sad feeling inside,” he says. “I said a bunch of prayers. It was devastating.”

McGirl, an experienced skier and snowboarder, was on his first visit to the Granby resort with his two sons, 8 and 4, and said he wished the Huber family had lowered the bar on the chairlift. “This all could have prevented I’m sure if they had their safety bar down,” he says. “If the bar was down, they would have had a chance to hang on.”

Colorado and most other states do not require that chairlifts have restraint bars and only one, Vermont, requires that passengers lower the bar, according to the National Ski Areas Association, a trade group for ski operators.

Fatal chairlift falls are rare; since 2004, there have been three deaths after people fell from chairlifts in instances unrelated to mechanical malfunctions, the Ski Areas Association says.

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