Parties settle lawsuit in fatal Wyo. raft accident

Posted November 3, 2009 By Ben Neary, Associated Press Writer  

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Grand Teton Lodge Co. has settled a lawsuit over a 2006 rafting accident on the Snake River that killed three people.   U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson of Cheyenne announced the settlement Friday to a jury that had been hearing evidence in the case for the previous two weeks.   “The matter has been settled to the satisfaction of all parties. The terms are confidential,” Maryjo Falcone, a lawyer for the lodge company, said Monday. The private company offers lodging, rafting and other services in Grand Teton National Park.   Mel Orchard, a lawyer for the relatives of three people who died, echoed Falcone’s comments.   John and Elizabeth Rizas, of Beaufort, S.C., and Linda Clark, of Shreveport, La., died when the raft they were riding in hit a snag and ejected them, their guide and nine other passengers into the water on June 2, 2006.   In his opening comments last month, Orchard told the jury the company was responsible for underplaying the danger of river rafting to encourage people to book the trip.   All the passengers had signed a form acknowledging that they knew river rafting was inherently dangerous. But Orchard told the jury that the lodge company downplayed the possibility of danger and didn’t discuss the implications of river conditions that day.   In her opening statement, Falcone said a “perfect storm” of events came together to cause the logjam that blocked the river channel.   Falcone emphasized that the National Park Service concluded that the accident was caused by a “change in channel conditions.” She said the agency found no sign of recklessness or inattention by the guide.   Earlier this summer, the judge in the case granted requests from Vail Resorts Inc., a parent company of the Grand Teton Lodge Co., and Tauck World Discovery, a travel company based in Norwalk, Conn., to be dismissed as defendants.  
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