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Inspectors: Wind a 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 ...
 Skiers ride a chairlift with a view of Spillway East chair lift, background, where six people were injured when five chairs fell to the ground on Tue...
 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

Skiers ride a chairlift with a view of Spillway East chair lift, background, where six people were injured when five chairs fell to the ground on Tue...

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 contributed to a chair lift accident at a Maine ski area that sent skiers plummeting 25 to 30 feet (7 to 9 feet), injuring eight and trapping others for more than an hour, investigators said Wednesday, but they're not ruling out other factors.
The inspectors from the Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety "are committed to a thorough process," Doug Dunbar, a spokesman for the agency that oversees the board, said in a statement.
The lift, which recently passed an inspection, was due to be replaced, possibly next summer, and was known to be vulnerable to wind, the Sugarloaf resort said Tuesday after the double-chair lift's cable derailed. Resort spokesman Ethan Austin did not say Wednesday whether mechanical difficulties were also an issue.
At least two skiers said a Sugarloaf worker was atop the tower where the cable derailed, though that could have been a coincidence. The lift was properly licensed and inspected for 2010, Dunbar said.
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. local time, Austin said. Guidelines for wind holds include wind speed and other factors, he said.
Wind gusts of 40 mph (64.37 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 in the lift 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's "Good Morning America" television show.
"And I also have been on that chair lift in higher winds," she said. "I don't remember it being outrageously high winds yesterday."
Another skier, Jeff Howard, said he heard a creaking sound on one of the lift's wheels while he was skiing Monday. He said he wasn't alarmed about it at the time, but it came to mind after he heard about the lift collapse.
On Wednesday, he said he doubted the accident would scare away skiers.
"Sugarloafers are a hardy bunch," he said.
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 during a busy vacation week at the resort 120 miles (193 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.
Six were either treated and released or discharged from a hospital as of Wednesday, said hospital spokeswoman Jill Gray. Two others were transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland, she said, but a spokeswoman there declined to confirm whether the hospital was treating them.
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Associated Press writers David Sharp and Clarke Canfield in Portland contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-05-08 16:00 GMT+08:00