Families Sue USA for Fatal Fumarole

By ELIZABETH BANICKI LOS ANGELES (CN) – Three ski patrolmen died at a volcanic vent at Mammoth Mountain ski resort, and two of their families say the United States is to blame for failing to warn about the fumarole and the poisonous gases that escape from it.   The three men died in April 2006 when they fell 21 feet into a volcanic fumarole in a snow collapse at Mammoth Ski Resort, according to an article in Mammoth Local, the online version of Mammoth Monthly magazine.   John McAndrews, 37, James Juarez, 35, and Walter Rosenthal, 58, died. The families of McAndrews and Juarez are plaintiffs in this Superior Court complaint.   McAndrews and Juarez were working with fencing around the well-known fumarole area, a giant vent in the mountain that was buried under snow. But the men did not know that steam spewing from the fumarole had created a cavern filled with poisonous gas beneath them, according to the magazine.   When McAndrews and Juarez fell through the snow into the cave, Rosenthal tried to help, but died in the process.   Poisonous volcanic gases can cause death in minutes. Other patrolmen tried to help, but were overcome by the gas.   The McAndrews and Juarez families say the federal government, which leases the property to the ski resort, negligently failed to protect the men.   “The United States and its employees have known since at least the early 1980s of a hazardous condition which is present at the ski area. Specifically, the Ski Area, as improved, is located on an inactive volcano,” the complaint states.   Each family seeks $10 million in damages for wrongful death, negligence, and premises liability. The United States is the only defendants.   The families are represented by Christian Juarez.

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