Many ski resorts are announcing increased safety inspections and maintenance following a ski lift accident at the Sugarloaf resort in Maine. Eight people were taken to the hospital after a double-chair-lift derailed and fell 30 feet. Over two hundred skiers were on the lift when five chairs came crashing down causing eight injuries. Fortunately no one suffered serious or life-threatening injuries; many believe that is because the area was not groomed because of a recent snowstorm dumping nearly two-feet of fresh snow in the area. This made the snow soft when the skiers came crashing down.
According to the initial investigation, high wind appears to be the primary cause of the lift failure. Wind that day had been gusting up to forty miles per hour and the lift had been put on a “wind hold” earlier in the morning. High wind is nothing new for New England skiers and “wind holds” are common. Later reports stated that approximately thirty minutes after the “wind hold” was lifted maintenance workers were dispatched to the lift to assess a cable that was out of alignment. Adjustments were made, and the lift was stopped and started several times in attempt to realign the cable before the mechanics decided to shut down the lift altogether. They had restarted the lift at a slow speed to allow skiers to disembark when the cable jumped out of wheels holding it in place.
An October inspection uncovered three problems with the ski lift – a guard needed to be placed over a drive shaft, it was recommended that trees and brush to be cut under the chair’s top section, and it was noted that some of the numbers on the lift towers were missing or not visible. The first two problems were fixed and Sugarloaf said they would put numbers on the towers once they were painted before ski season got under way. These problems were considered routine maintenance issues and not out of the ordinary. The lift passed inspection, in lieu of that fact that is was thirty-five years old and vulnerable to wind.
The question here is – if inspectors knew this lift could be dangerous, why wasn’t it permanently shut down until replaced? Why was it is being used on a day where the winds were obviously high? It is unclear whether wind or another cause pushed the cable out of place. The Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety is continuing to investigate the accident. Until the investigation is concluded, the ski lift will be closed.
Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida,
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.