Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Young boy dangles from chairlift at Mt Hutt skifield

The 11-year-old boy left dangling off a chairlift at Mt Hutt says the ordeal was "scary" but won't put him off his love for the slopes.

Onlookers looked on in horror as Jack Clulee clung onto relatives on the chairlift metres off the ground during the frightening incident on Saturday morning.

Dramatic footage emerged yesterday afternoon of Jack being held up, metres off the ground, by his father and uncle as staff and onlookers set up a safety pad below.

Jack was dangling for about a minute before he was let go and landed safely.

Before the safety pad was put out, he said he held his breath and said to himself "don't fall, don't fall".

"It was pretty scary. I was just thinking to myself I didn't want to fall because it was quite high up," he said.

Jack, a student at Clearview Primary School in Rolleston, said the incident wouldn't put him off returning to the slopes.

He watched the footage dozens of times today and revealed he was relieved when onlookers brought out the pad for him to jump down to.

Jack's father Kevin Clulee said the drama unfolded after they didn't have time to pull the chairlift's safety bar - which sits on the legs to prevent falls - down.

"We were just getting settled when he slipped," Clulee said.

"In hindsight I should have just dropped him when we were still quite close to the ground but then we were far to high."

Mt Hutt Ski Area general manager operations James Urquhart said after yesterday's incident staff would be extra-vigilant about reminding those about to hit the slopes of the importance of the safety bar.

"It seems they have forgotten to lower the bar and the boy has leaned forward and slipped," he said.

Urquhart praised quick thinking staff who saw Jack was in trouble.

"They were right there, grabbed the tower-mat and the whole thing was over in about a minute and a half," he said.

"They checked he was okay and then he just skied off and joined the queue again."

Urquhart said the boy's family continued up on the chairlift.

"I haven't even been able to speak to them because they just carried on and have continued skiing."

Footage of the ordeal, from onlooker Tony Kramers, shows Jack dangling for more than a minute, with his relatives clinging on to him, before he was able to safely fall to the ground.

Kramers praised staff for saving Jack from serious injury.

And his wife, Nicky Kramers, said the skifield went silent until the boy landed.

"We heard all these people screaming, looked up to see a child hanging from the chairlift and people on the lift were losing their grip," she said.

Yesterday's incident at Mt Hutt is the second chairlift incident for the Canterbury ski field.

Last month the Summit 6 chairlift broke down with staff using ropes to help abseil 170 skiers to the ground.

- NZ Herald

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