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Maine ski area: Lift was being shut when it failed

 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...

Ski area maintenance workers dispatched to realign a lift cable were unable to fix the problem and had restarted the lift in an attempt to off-load riders when the cable derailed, sending skiers plummeting 25 feet (7.6 meters) to 30 feet (9 meters), the resort said Wednesday.
High winds had shut down the lift at Sugarloaf in the hours before Tuesday's accident, but it was cleared for operations and reopened just before 10 a.m. About 20 minutes later, the two maintenance workers saw the cable was out of place and were preparing to shut down the lift when the cable jumped its track.
Five chairs fell, eight people were sent to hospitals and dozens were stranded on the crippled lift for more than an hour. Six of the eight had been released from a local hospital by Wednesday.
High wind contributed to the accident, state investigators said Wednesday, but they're not ruling out other factors. The 35-year-old lift, which recently passed an inspection, was due to be replaced, possibly next summer, and was known to be vulnerable to wind long before its cable derailed.
Resort spokesman Ethan Austin also said Wednesday that wind played a role, but he didn't rule out mechanical difficulties or other causes. The lift was properly licensed and inspected for 2010, officials said.
Wind gusts of 40 mph (64 kph) were reported around Sugarloaf before the accident on the aging lift.
On Wednesday, the ski resort's parking lots were full, and the slopes were crowded.
The damaged lift remained out of commission, with part of its cable and several chairs still on the snow where they fell, as state inspectors and Sugarloaf workers went about their investigation.
In Maine, ski resort lifts are overseen by the Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety, whose inspectors are investigating the accident. Annual inspections are the responsibility of the ski resorts, but the state licenses the inspectors.
Nationwide, there's no federal oversight of ski lifts, and inspection rules and procedures vary from state to state, said Troy Hawks of the National Ski Areas Association.
Deadly lift accidents are relatively rare. Since 1973, lift accidents have killed 12 people, including one in 1976 that killed four people in Vail, Colorado, and another in 1978 in Squaw Valley, California, that also killed four people, according to the Colorado-based organization.
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Associated Press writers David Sharp and Clarke Canfield in Portland contributed to this report.


Updated : 2020-12-01 11:12 GMT+08:00