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Mobile phone saved trapped skiers' lives

PUBLISHED: 14:56 05 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:29 03 March 2010

TWO Suffolk men who got trapped on a chair lift during a ski holiday were saved from freezing to death - by a mobile telephone.

Timber importer Philip Johnston, 51, and joiner John Ratcliffe, 45, were the last skiers of the day to use the lift to get down the mountain at Sauze D'Olux in the Italian Alps.

TWO Suffolk men who got trapped on a chair lift during a ski holiday were saved from freezing to death - by a mobile telephone.

Timber importer Philip Johnston, 51, and joiner John Ratcliffe, 45, were the last skiers of the day to use the lift to get down the mountain at Sauze D'Olux in the Italian Alps.

The pair had ridden half way down at around 5 pm when the operator switched off the equipment for the day and went home after forgetting they were there.

The lift stopped moving about 400 metres down the mountain as they were passing through a wooded area which muffled their cries for help.

They feared they might end up freezing to death on the mountainside with the prospect of night time temperatures plunging to -15 C.

John of Monks Eleigh near Hadleigh, then remembered he had his mobile telephone in his pocket.

He spotted the telephone number of a local T shirt shop advertised on one of his rented ski poles and rang it to call for help.

Philip of Culford near Bury St Edmunds, said: "Luckily it was an English woman working in the shop who answered the telephone.

"She thought we were joking at first when we explained we were stuck in the chair lift on the side of the mountain.

"We persuaded her we were genuine callers and she contacted her husband who got in touch with the ski centre and the people in charge of the lift.

"The operator was then sent back to start up the lift again so we could continue our journey after about an hour. It was a relief to get back down to the ground again."

Philip added: "We could have skied down the mountain at the end of the day - but we took the option of going in the lift.

"A hand written sign warned that the lift would not operate after 4.30 pm - but when we talked to the operator he said it would be OK to get on.

"He must have just forgotten we were on there and gone off. It was very worrying because it was getting dark and colder.

"We were more than 25 foot above the ground in an area which was a 45 degree incline with lots of tree stumps and jagged rocks.

"If we had tried to jump off we could easily have broken a leg or suffered more serious injuries. I suppose we could have died up there without the telephone."


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