A woman who was reported missing by her friends after a day of snowboarding at a ski resort in Lake Tahoe was later found to be trapped inside a ski lift gondola overnight as temperatures dropped below freezing.
Monica Laso had opted to ride the gondola down the mountain at Heavenly Ski Resort on Thursday because she was too tired for one more snowboard run, she later told KCRA in an interview in Spanish.
So at 5pm, Ms Laso boarded the gondola, but it stopped just minutes later, still suspended in the sky. She yelled for help, but no one could hear her cries.
“I screamed desperately until I lost my voice,” Ms Laso said, adding that she did not have her cellphone, so she couldn’t call for help either.
For 15 hours, the woman rubbed her hands and feet together to fight off the cold. The overnight low temperature was 23 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Ms Laso’s friends had reported her missing to the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office when they could not get ahold of her, but it wasn’t until the gondola came back down the mountain the following day that crews realized she had been there overnight.
“I felt very frustrated,” she said.
Kim George, a battalion chief and spokesperson for South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue, told The Associated Press that paramedics responded to the resort at 8.30am on Friday after Ms Laso was discovered in the gondola.
She was responsive and alert and declined to be transported to the hospital, Ms George said.
In her 23 years with the fire department, “we’ve never responded to anything like that,” she said. “I’m very curious to hear the story.”
Heavenly Mountain Resort is investigating “with the utmost seriousness” how the woman got trapped, the resort said in a statement.
“The safety and wellbeing of our guests is our top priority at Heavenly Mountain Resort,” Tom Fortune, the resort’s vice president and chief operating officer, said.