Monday, January 17, 2011

Adrenaline pumped covering ski lift rescue

When I heard that more than 80 people were stuck on a ski lift Saturday afternoon at Alpine Valley Ski Area in Munson Township, I knew right away this was pretty big news.

I quickly called photographer Maribeth Joeright, who was finishing up another assignment, to let her know I was heading down to the scene. She would meet me there as quickly as possible.

When I got to the Mayfield Road entrance for the facility, there was a long line of cars with drivers unsure of what was happening as police authorities told motorists that Alpine Valley was closed.

I mentioned to the sheriff deputy my affiliation and soon found a place to park and grabbed my smart phone, Flip camera, digital voice recorder and shuffled along the snow as quickly as I could.

As soon as I got close enough to see what was happening, I was amazed. Dozens of skiers stranded on a chair lift.

I snapped a few cell phone pictures and immediately e-mailed them to Business Editor Brandon Baker, who was on duty.

He posted them to our website and I was soon shooting videos of people getting rescued. I found out later the Associated Press picked up my cell phone images and websites across the county began to post them with a short story synopsis, even www.msnbc.com.

While at the scene, I was simultaneously sending live Tweets from my personal Twitter account and from The News-Herald’s account.

Although it was cold, my blood was pumped full of adrenaline. It was hard to type on my phone’s keyboard with no gloves and the cold made it hard, and at times, painful to move my fingers.

I sought out interviews with people who were rescued, in between the Tweets and videos.

Soon Maribeth arrived and began to snap photos with better equipment than what I had. She got some really amazing and compelling shots.

We were running around all over the place trying to get the best photos, videos of actual rescues, and interviews we could.

I stopped for a moment to watch three young boys finally get their turn to be rescued. I thought about how nervous and scared I would be if it was my son stuck up there about 40 to 50 feet in the air with his feet dangling for hours.

Most of the people who were rescued were quickly whisked back down the hall to get warm and make sure they were OK.

But I was able to speak with a few people moments after they were rescued to see what it was like to be stuck for so long.

Each skier had a common theme, that it was no big deal and that this incident wouldn’t stop them from enjoying their passion again or even coming back to Alpine Valley.

I’m not so sure I would have been this optimistic.

One lady I spoke with was bound to get in her ski run. After we finished talking, she and the two children with her, grabbed their skis and poles and made it back down the mountain.

After a few hours, it was over, everyone was safe and sound, and I was back at The News-Herald’s office doing what I could to get the news out to people as quickly as possible.

It was exciting and fun to be a part of such breaking news. It’s what being a journalist is all about.

-- John Arthur Hutchison
JHutchison@News-Herald.com

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Ski Trip said...

This incident will sure never stop ski enthusiast from skiing once again. Since this sport is the best outdoor adventure for family and friends during winter.

January 27, 2011 at 3:17 AM 

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