January 4, 2011

TERRIFYING RIDE FOR SKIERS

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Some chairs lie on the ground while others are suspended in the air after the Spillway East lift derailed Tuesday morning at Sugarloaf. About 150 people were stranded when the 4,000-foot-long chairlift stopped and had to be lowered to the ground by ropes, a resort official said.

Jack Michaud/Jack Michaud Photography

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Eight skiers were injured when a section of cable derailed about 10:30 a.m. and five two-passenger chairs fell, with at least three of them hitting the ground 30 feet below.

Jack Michaud/Jack Michaud Photography

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An electric motor powers the 162-chair lift, which can send as many as 1,200 riders up the mountain each hour at 500 feet per minute, according to Sugarloaf reports. The chairs are 50 feet apart and weigh 140 pounds each.

The lift derailment instantly made national news. Robb Atkinson, a former news director for WGME-TV in Portland who now works for CNN, was among those stranded on the lift. He gave the national news network a live account of the rescue effort.

day's end, the story had been reported by the other major news networks and even the British Broadcasting Corp.

On Tuesday afternoon, skiers and snowboarders in the base lodge were busy using their cellphones as people called and sent text messages from all over the country, asking if they had been on the lift that had broken down.

Doug Ide of Manchester said he had heard from a friend and family members in other states.

"They all knew we were up here," said Ide, who was skiing with his 12-year-old son, Jacob, and 9-year-old daughter, Katie.

Jacob Ide said he came close to getting on Spillway East right before it derailed, but there was a long line so he got on the lift next to it instead.

The Ides took the incident in stride; they planned to continue skiing.

"As far as I'm concerned, they do a great job here, and it was a freak accident," Doug Ide said.

Those who saw the accident and the rescue effort stressed how quickly and professionally the staff worked to make sure everyone was safe.

Tricia Leach, who was on the lift with her 12-year-old daughter, Meghan, when it broke down, said they waited in the cold for about an hour before being lowered to the ground.

"I can't say enough about how great Sugarloaf was," she said.

 

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Additional Photos

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Those who saw the accident and the rescue effort stressed how quickly and professionally the Sugarloaf staff worked to make sure everyone was safe.

Jack Michaud/Jack Michaud Photography

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The Associated Press/Betsy Twombly

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Jack Michaud photo

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Jack Michaud photo

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Jack Michaud photo



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