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Man plummets to his death from Idaho gondola

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 20, 2012, 7:48 p.m.

FILE PHOTO: Here's a 2004 archive photo of a Silver Mountain gondola car. (Jesse Tinsley)
FILE PHOTO: Here's a 2004 archive photo of a Silver Mountain gondola car. (Jesse Tinsley)

KELLOGG, Idaho – A Colorado man riding in a gondola during the weekend’s Brewsfest at Silver Mountain Resort apparently fell to his death, authorities said Monday.

Dylan T. Crosby, 26, reportedly had climbed out a small side window of the gondola car he was in despite being warned repeatedly by a companion to get back inside, according to the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office.

A witness report indicates that Crosby crawled onto the top of the gondola car, and then onto the cable downhill from the moving car.

The witness said Crosby either lost his grip - or let go of the cable – as he reached the sheave wheels at one of the towers that suspend the cable.

“There is still no clear explanation for why Crosby chose to do this,” the sheriff’s office reported.

He fell about 85 feet into steep, rocky terrain about 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the popular festival, which features concerts and beer from Inland Northwest microbreweries, officials said.

“They were some of the last people to come off the mountain that evening,” said resort spokesman John Williams.

The resort offers its deepest condolences to the man’s family, Williams said.

Crosby, from Rifle, Colo., was a welder with a construction crew working on the Yellowstone Pipeline near Murray, Idaho.

The car was headed down the mountain and was occupied only by Crosby and a friend. Crosby fell in the upper half of the 3-mile ride, Shoshone County Undersheriff Rod Plank said.

The gondola, capable of shuttling 1,600 people an hour from downtown Kellogg to Silver’s alpine lodge, was shut down Sunday while the incident was investigated. It reopened Monday.

The gondola cars have small windows that open for ventilation, along with signs warning riders not to reach out the windows, Williams said Monday.

The windows are small and narrow, he said. “It’s hard to imagine somebody squeezing through,” he said, adding, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the design of the gondola. We’ve been running for 20 years and have had nobody ever attempt to get out.”

Assisting the sheriff’s office was the Kellogg Police Department, the Idaho State Police and personnel from the resort, which operates the gondola in winter and spring for skiing and snowboarding and in summer for hiking, mountain biking and disc golf.

Authorities located the body about 9:30 p.m. Saturday but said they needed to wait for better climbing conditions Sunday morning to carry the remains off the mountain.

“It took a significant amount of time to get to the location where he was at just because of the steepness and darkness,” Plank said.

Plank said he didn’t know if alcohol was a factor in the incident, but toxicology tests as part of the autopsy will show if the man was intoxicated or had been drinking.

The aerial tramway, touted by Silver Mountain as the world’s longest single-stage gondola, opened in 1990.