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Resort: Wind a key factor in Maine lift accident

 Map locates the Sugarloaf ski area
 This photo provided by Betsy Twombly shows a skier being taken down the mountain on a toboggan, left, as other skiers remain on the slope, rear, and ...
 This photo provided by Al Noyes shows skiers and lift chairs on the slope after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski mountain at the Sugarloaf ...
 This photo provided by Al Noyes shows a skier trying to climb down from a stalled ski lift chair after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski mou...
 This photo provided by Al Noyes shows skiers and lift chairs on the slope, lower right, after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski mountain at ...
 Sugarloaf mountain is seen on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010 in Carrabasset Valley, Maine, where a 35-year-old chair lift set for improvements failed in high...
 This photo provided by Betsy Twombly shows a skier being helped down from a lift chair, center, after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski moun...

SKI LIFT ACCIDENT

Map locates the Sugarloaf ski area

Ski Lift Accident

This photo provided by Betsy Twombly shows a skier being taken down the mountain on a toboggan, left, as other skiers remain on the slope, rear, and ...

ADDITION Ski Lift Accident

This photo provided by Al Noyes shows skiers and lift chairs on the slope after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski mountain at the Sugarloaf ...

ADDITION Ski Lift Accident

This photo provided by Al Noyes shows a skier trying to climb down from a stalled ski lift chair after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski mou...

ADDITION Ski Lift Accident

This photo provided by Al Noyes shows skiers and lift chairs on the slope, lower right, after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski mountain at ...

Ski Lift Accident

Sugarloaf mountain is seen on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010 in Carrabasset Valley, Maine, where a 35-year-old chair lift set for improvements failed in high...

Ski Lift Accident

This photo provided by Betsy Twombly shows a skier being helped down from a lift chair, center, after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski moun...

High wind was a primary factor in a chair lift collapse at a Maine ski area that sent skiers plummeting 25 to 30 feet (7 to 9 meters), injuring eight and trapping others for more than an hour, the resort said Wednesday.
Inspectors from the Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety made the preliminary findings, said Ethan Austin, a spokesman for the Sugarloaf resort. The investigators weren't available for comment, an agency spokesman said.
Austin did not say whether mechanical difficulties were also an issue. The lift, which recently passed an inspection, was due to be replaced, possibly next summer, and was known to be vulnerable to wind, the resort said Tuesday.
At least two skiers said a Sugarloaf worker was atop the tower where the lift's cable derailed, though that could have been a coincidence. The lift was properly licensed and inspected for 2010, said Doug Dunbar of the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.
Before the accident Tuesday, the damaged lift and two others started the day on a "wind hold" because of the blustery weather, but Sugarloaf officials later deemed it safe to operate before the accident at 10:30 a.m., Austin said. Guidelines for wind holds include wind speed and other factors, he said.
Wind gusts of 40 mph (65 kph) were reported around Sugarloaf before the accident on the lift, which was built in 1975 and set for upgrades or replacement. But one skier who fell the 25 to 30 feet to the new-fallen snow below said she didn't remember it being exceptionally windy.
"Maybe it was a small factor, but I don't think that it was a giant factor because I know the mountain wouldn't have opened the lift if it wasn't safe," Rebecca London told ABC television.
"And I also have been on that chair lift in higher winds," she told ABC. "I don't remember it being outrageously high winds yesterday."
It's unclear when the investigation will be finished, Austin said. "But pending further investigation, they've determined that wind was a primary factor," he said.
Eight people, including three children, were taken to hospitals after the double-chair lift derailed at the resort 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Portland. Five chairs fell to the ground, and dozens of skiers were stuck on the crippled lift for more than an hour until the ski patrol could get them down.
The lift is 4,013 feet (1,223 meters) long, gains 1,454 feet (443 meters) of elevation and nearly reaches the summit of 4,327-foot (1,319-meter) Sugarloaf, the state's second-tallest mountain.
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Associated Press writers David Sharp and Clarke Canfield in Portland contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-22 10:56 GMT+08:00