At least eight people, kids included, had been taken to a hospital following the derailment of the Spillway East lift double-chair lift at Maineâ€™s Sugarloaf Resort during the course of a busy vacation week at the resort 120 miles north of Portland.
About five chairs fell 25 to 30 feet onto a ski trail below, officials said. Â The resort said the lift, which went into service in 1975 and not long ago handed an inspection, was set for upgrades or repairs but declined to specify when.Â At the time of the derailment, there were an estimated 220 people on the lift, according to officials with Sugarloaf.Â Sugarloaf has yet to determine the cause of the incident.
â€œAll injured guests have been treated and are being transported to area hospitals. At this point none of the injuries are believed to be life threatening,â€
Jack Michaud was on Spillway West with his wife, while his mother was on Spillway East. He remembered feeling a jerk on the cable, but didnâ€™t know what had happened until his chair came upon the scene. He said the cable and chairs were on the ground, and his mother was thrown from her chair when it hit the ground.Â He made his way down the mountain to his mother and said she was shaken up, but not seriously injured.
She said nothing about significant wind, and he doesnâ€™t remember any strong gusts, either.Â He does remember, however, seeing a mechanic on his previous run. Â The mechanic was checking out the tower where the chairs fell. His mother told him that the mechanic had climbed the tower and was banging on it when the chairs fell.
Sugarloaf staff say the chairlift receives weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance and testing; and it is inspected each year by the State of Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety. The Spillway East chair was manufactured and installed by Borvig in 1975 and modified in 1983. The lift, which moves at 500 feet per minute, is 4,013 feet long, according to the Sugarloaf press statement.Â An inspector from the State of Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety is at the mountain to investigate the crash.
â€œWeâ€™re deeply concerned about those who were injured,â€ said Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin, â€œand weâ€™re committed to understanding the cause of this incident. We want our guests to have fun, but our first priority is their safety.â€
All of the mountainâ€™s lifts were closed down for a few hours Tuesday while staff worked to evacuate Spillway East. The resort says guests should expect normal operations for the rest of the week, but Spillway East will not reopen.
Jack Michaud says even if it does reopen, he wonâ€™t be riding on it again. â€œI wonâ€™t ride that chair ever again,â€ he said.