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Biker recovering after fall from ski lift

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Jay Newman said his heart sank as he sat suspended in the air and watched the last lift shack operator hop on a mountain bike and head down the hill at Deer Valley Resort Friday.

Newman was stuck, stranded on the chair 30 feet in the air as the last mountain bikers and workers made their way to the parking lot. After tying his padding and other equipment together in a makeshift rope, Newman tried to shimmy down closer to the ground. His weight was too much, though, and the makeshift rope tore, sending Newman to the ground. The impact from the fall left Newman with a shattered pelvis and broken leg.

After dragging himself 300 yards to a service road, Newman's father and the lift operator discovered Newman six hours later, early Saturday morning, as they searched for him on a four-wheeler. Newman was alert enough to throw a handful of dirt and rocks as he lay on the side of the road to get their attention when the four-wheeler passed by.

"My dad thought it had been a deer that they had startled," said Newman's 22-year-old sister Jill Martin. "They turned in the direction where the rocks had come from, and there was my brother."

Deer Valley Resort officials say a mistake by one of their lift operators left Newman stranded. They've agreed to cover all Newman's medical costs, said resort spokeswoman Coleen Reardon.

"It was terrible for everybody up there and for the family and the kid," Reardon said. "It was gut-wrenching for everybody at Deer Valley because it was a terrible mistake."

Newman, 20, remained in serious but stable condition Thursday morning at LDS Hospital, recovering from surgery to his pelvis and leg.

"At this point he's pretty uncomfortable," said hospital spokesman Jess Gomez, "but he is expected to recover."

That her son has lived to describe his horrific ordeal is a miracle to Newman's mother, Polly Newman.

"I think I'm still in shock," Polly Newman said Thursday. "This is his first-ever injury. He's had little cuts and scrapes when he was 2 and 3, but this was his first big injury. He's just really taking it hard."

Besides his fractured pelvis and broken right leg, Newman has scrapes all over his arms from dragging himself along the ground. His right foot is also bruised from throwing rocks. His broken leg would sometimes become stuck on rocks or branches as he dragged along the ground, but because he couldn't move the leg or turn around with his fractured pelvis, Newman had to throw rocks to free his foot from the debris.

"He knew he had to stay conscious and keep thinking," Martin said. "He is pretty tough."

Newman had a season pass to Deer Valley and had been training for the upcoming National Off Road Bicycle Association National Championship Series July 26-30 at Deer Valley Resort. The race attracts bikers from around the world.

Newman won't race at the NORBA nationals but told his family he does want to eventually return to biking, Martin said.

E-MAIL: djensen@desnews.com