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Denver, CO, Feb. 1, 2001–The Eagle County District Court delivered a sentence to Nathan Hall, a 22-year-old man from Chico, CA, yesterday, for the conviction of criminally negligent homicide for the death of a skier at Vail, CO in 1997. This marks the first case in Colorado history where a skier has been convicted for killing another while skiing.
Nathan Hall, then 18-years old and a former high school ski racer, had just finished his lift operator shift on April 20, 1997, the final day of Vail’s ski season, when he lost control on Riva Ridge and collided with Alan Cobb fracturing his skull resulting in death. Cobb, a 33-year-old Denver woodworker, left behind a fiancée and two daughters from an earlier marriage.
Alcohol and marijuana were found in Hall’s possession on the day of the collision. A county and district court rejected the case brought on by Cobb’s family, but on April 10, 2000 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Hall should stand trial for reckless manslaughter, a charge that can bring a maximum of 16 years in jail if convicted. A Colorado jury convicted Hall on November 16, 2000 of negligent homicide. Vail settled a lawsuit with Cobb’s family for $300,000.
Within the three-and-a-half years since the collision, Hall violated his bond conditions when police took him into custody in March 2000 for public intoxication where he also tested positive for marijuana. Months earlier, Hall also pleaded guilty to criminal mischief charges for stealing skis at Vail.
“What happened in this case is not an inherent risk of skiing,” said District Judge David Lass.
Hall’s punishment includes a 90-day jail sentence, 240 hours of public service, three years of supervised probation with no alcohol consumption, no skiing unless in conjunction with a skier safety program, and financial compensation to Cobb’s family for travel expenses, funeral costs and psychological counseling.
“I stand before you guys knowing I’ve taken a human life, a life obviously very special and valued by a lot of people,” Hall said emotionally in court yesterday. “I, in no way, feel I’ve suffered even a small fraction of what I’ve put you guys through.”
Following the sentence Hall’s lawyers stated they plan to appeal the conviction of criminally negligent homicide on the basis that Judge Lass should have provided the jurors with the option to convict Hall of a misdemeanor instead.
“I was absolutely appalled and shocked at their decision to appeal,” said Christi Neville, Cobb’s fiancée. Several people on the prosecution’s side felt the appeal tarnished Hall’s apology to the Cobb family, the first one in the three-and-a-half years since the collision.
Ski industry insiders have watched this case with great interest, as it is the first of its kind and may have implications for other recreational activities.
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