Skier from New Jersey suffocates to death after getting caught in chairlift

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Officials say a skier from Short Hills appears to have suffocated to death at a Colorado resort after he fell through an opening in a chairlift seat and became caught with his coat wrapped around his head and neck.

According to the Vail Daily, Jason Varnish, 46, died Thursday while attempting to board the lift in Vail's Blue Sky Basin.

The Eagle County coroner says the death has been ruled an accident.

She says the chairlift's folding seat was upright instead of in the down position, leaving a gap.

Varnish's coat became caught when he slipped through.

An attorney who's worked on cases involving skier accidents says the lift should have been stopped.

"They should've just hit the stop button," says Joseph Bloch. "There's an emergency stop and there's a slow stop and if they're doing their job they could hit the slow stop before the guests are loading."

The ski lift is up and running again following the deadly accident.

AP wire services helped contribute to this report.

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