January 4, 2011

At least 8 injured in derailment

Chairlift jumps track, skiers fall as far as 30 feet to ground

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Skiers await rescue after the Spillway East chairlift derailed, sending riders 30 feet down to the snow below.

Contributed photo by Jack Michaud/Jack Michaud Photography

click image to enlarge

Skiers ride a chair-lift at Sugarloaf after a chair lift derailed in high winds earlier in the day. The derailment at Maine's tallest ski mountain Tuesday, sent skiers plummeting as far as 30 feet to the slope below and injuring several people.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines

The resort had also conducted an emergency training drill in early November for a response to a chairlift derailment, according to spokesman Austin. Sugarloaf staff and surrounding emergency responders trained for a mass evacuation of riders on a derailed lift, he said.

Carrabassett Valley police and several ambulance services responded Tuesday, according to Austin.

Austin declined to comment on any liability issues related to the derailment. The resort's legal personnel will evaluate that issue as necessary, he said.

An electric motor powers the 162-chairlift, sending a capacity of 1,200 riders up the hill each hour at a speed of 500 feet per minute, according to Sugarloaf reports. The chairs are 50 feet apart and weigh 140 pounds, and the lift was modified in 1983, Sugarloaf reports indicate.

Austin declined to say if the Spillway East lift's replacement had been scheduled. He said it was among many lifts being looked at for replacement as part of a 10-year capital improvement plan at the resort.

The replacement of Spillway East, however, was at the "top of the list," Austin said.

 

MAKING HEADLINES

Tuesday afternoon, skiers and snowboarders warming up in the base lodge were glued to their cellphones. They were baffled by the number of people calling and sending text messages from all over the country to see if they were on the lift that had broken down.

The lift derailment instantly made national news. An employee for CNN was among those stranded on the lift, and he provided the national news station with a live account of the rescue effort. By day's end, the story had also been reported by the BBC.

Doug Ide, of Manchester, said he'd heard from a friend and family 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 the Spillway East lift right before it derailed, but there was long line, so he chose to get on the lift next to it instead.

Still, the Ides took the incident in stride; the family 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.

Three friends from Sabattus, home for winter break from their freshman year in college, said they were just getting to the mountain when the lift broke.

"People told us just to leave," said Devyn Pepin, 19. But the teens decided to snowboard anyway.

"It happens," Pepin said about the accident. "It's been a good day, other than that."

For people such as Steve Kolenda, who's been skiing at Sugarloaf for 25 years and spends 50 days each winter on the mountain, it was a difficult day.

"We love this place. It was a very emotional event for all of us," he said.

Kolenda said a friend of his fell from the lift and was taken to the hospital, but had been released by the afternoon. "We're hearing that kind of stuff, so we're feeling better," he 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 evacuated to the ground.

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

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors


Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Sugarloaf representatives, from left to right, Brad Larsen, vice president of sales and marketing, Richard Wilkinson, vice president of mountain operations, and John Diller, general manager, hold a press conference at Sugarloaf Tuesday afternoon. A chairlift derailed in high winds at Maine's tallest ski mountain Tuesday, sending skiers plummeting as far as 30 feet to the slope below and injuring several people.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

Skiers ride a chairlift Tuesday afternoon at Sugarloaf. A lift derailed in high winds at Maine’s tallest ski mountain Tuesday, sending skiers plummeting as far as 30 feet to the slope below and injuring several people.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

A skier rides on a chairlift Tuesday afternoon at Sugarloaf. A lift derailed in high winds at Maine’s tallest ski mountain Tuesday, sending skiers plummeting as far as 30 feet to the slope below and injuring several people.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

click image to enlarge

A skier attempts to recover after the cable derailed, sending riders plummeting to the ground. At least eight people were injured.

Contributed photo by Jack Michaud/Jack Michaud Photography

click image to enlarge

Chairs on the Spillway East chairlift at Sugarloaf rest in the snow after falling as far as 30 feet after the cable derailed Tuesday. The derailment at Maine's tallest ski mountain Tuesday, sent skiers and snowboarders to the ground, injuring at least eight people.

Contributed photo by Jack Michaud/Jack Michaud Photography

 


Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)