(This story was originally published December 31, 2010)

 

A damaged chairlift at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort will remain closed today as state inspectors continue their investigation into a cable derailment that sent eight skiers to area hospitals earlier this week.

At least one of the skiers remained at Maine Medical Center in Portland on Thursday evening, being treated for injuries suffered when five lift chairs fell 25 to 30 feet onto the snowy slope.

Two inspectors from the Maine Elevator and Tramway Board were on the mountain again Thursday, examining equipment and conducting interviews with resort employees and others, said Doug Dunbar, spokesman for the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

“Their work is continuing,” Dunbar said Thursday evening. “It’s a comprehensive review. We will have updates as new information is available.”

The Spillway East lift would remain closed today, according to the daily conditions report on Sugarloaf’s website.

Resort mechanics had been trying to realign the lift’s cable when it derailed around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and allowed five chairs to fall onto the ski slope, according to resort officials.

A ski patroller had seen the cable running toward the outside of rubber-lined wheels that supported the lift at Tower 8. The resort had delayed opening the lift for about two hours because of high wind in the wake of a blizzard that had dropped 22 inches on the mountain.

When the mechanics were unable to realign the cable, they started running the lift slowly to off-load skiers, according to resort officials. That’s when the cable derailed. The mechanics immediately stopped the lift and locked it to prevent further movement.

Sugarloaf employees and emergency response workers spent the next two hours assisting skiers who were injured in the fall and removing skiers who were stranded on the lift, using a rope-and-pulley system. The lift had been carrying about 150 people.

Among the eight injured in the accident, two were children. Five were treated and released at Franklin Memorial Hospital in nearby Farmington and three were treated at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Andy Tonge was released from Maine Medical on Thursday afternoon, according to his father, Rick Tonge. Mike Katz was in satisfactory condition at Maine Medical on Thursday night, according to a hospital spokesman. The name and condition of the third skier has not been released.

The Maine Elevator and Tramway Board has noted that there was some damage to lift components because of the rope displacement, according to a Sugarloaf news release.

All mechanical components remained in place after the incident and those components are currently being removed and will be analyzed further. The resort plans to replace the damaged parts with new equipment and go through safety testing and inspections prior to reopening the lift to the public.

Other lifts at Sugarloaf continue normal operations.