Mechanics at the Sugarloaf ski resort were trying to fix a problem with the Spillway East chairlift – and had decided to shut it down – just before it derailed Tuesday morning, dropping five chairs to the snow and injuring eight skiers and snowboarders, according to a news release issued by the resort.

State officials are continuing an investigation into the accident and have not issued any official findings. A Sugarloaf spokesman said on Wednesday that inspectors believe high winds were a factor in the accident, however.

The details released by Sugarloaf confirm that mechanics were trying to fix a misaligned cable when the chairs fell at 10:30 a.m.

The chairlift had been shut down earlier Tuesday because of winds, but was opened to the public at 9:55 a.m. after an inspection, according to Sugarloaf.

Here is a description from Sugarloaf’s news release of the moments before the accident:

At 10:23 a.m., the Lift Operations Department received a maintenance request for Tower 8 from a Sugarloaf ski patroller. Two chairlift mechanics were dispatched at that time. The chairlift cable was observed to be running toward the outside of the rubber liners of the sheave train (the wheels on which the cable is supported) on Tower 8.  

At 10:30 a.m., one lift mechanic arrived at Tower 8 and another arrived at the bottom terminal of Spillway East. Working in tandem, the mechanic at the bottom terminal of Spillway East communicated with the mechanic on Tower 8 while he made an adjustment to the sheave train per Sugarloaf’s operating and maintenance procedures. The lift was slowly started to enable the cable to settle back into the correct location on the sheaves. 

The realignment effort was unsuccessful. The mechanics repeated the procedure, again unsuccessfully.   

The mechanic on Tower 8 determined that it would be inappropriate to run the chair at normal operating speed and the lift should be closed.

Mechanics started the lift at a slow operating speed to begin off-loading the guests who were on the lift. 

Shortly after starting the lift at reduced speed, the lift cable deroped from Tower 8, leaving the cable suspended between Tower 9 and Tower 7. 

Lacking the support of the sheave wheels on Tower 8, five chairs struck the snow below.  

When the deropement occurred, the mechanic on Tower 8 immediately notified the mechanic at the bottom terminal of Spillway East about the deropement. The lift was immediately stopped and locked out from further movement.  

Ski patrol was immediately notified of the deropement, and lift evacuation procedures began at 10:45 a.m.  At 12:14 p.m. all guests had been evacuated from the lift. Sugarloaf ski patrol estimates that 150 people were evacuated.