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Heavenly resort exec cites ‘breakdown in protocols’ after woman stuck in gondola overnight

By Daniel Macht

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    SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, CA (KCRA) — A Heavenly Mountain Resort executive said Tuesday that an investigation found a breakdown in protocols was responsible for a woman being left on a gondola overnight in frigid conditions. He said he was grateful that snowboarder Monico Laso was found safe after her ordeal.

Laso told KCRA 3 that she spent 15 hours being stuck in the Lake Tahoe resort’s gondola when it stopped about two minutes after she boarded it just before 5 p.m. on Thursday.

Laso said she fought the cold by rubbing her hands and feet and lost her voice while trying to scream for help at workers below on the mountain.

Laso’s friends reported her missing to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office when they could not get ahold of her. It wasn’t until the gondola started working again Friday and went back down the mountain that crews realized she had been there overnight.

A previous statement by Heavenly said it was investigating how the incident happened.

Tom Fortune, Heavenly’s chief operating officer, released a new statement to KCRA 3 on Tuesday, taking responsibility for what he characterized as a breakdown in protocols.

“As the chief operating officer of Heavenly Mountain Resort, I am responsible for all aspects of mountain operations, including the safety of our guests,” Fortune said. “We have rigorous protocols to ensure our gondola and chairlifts are fully unloaded each day. I have reviewed our investigation, and it is clear there was a breakdown in those protocols that day. I take full responsibility as well as ownership to ensure it is addressed so that it never happens again. I recognize the gravity of this guest’s experience and we all are grateful she was found safe and uninjured.”

The statement did not detail what specific actions that would be taken in the future.

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