Sugarloaf: Mechanical Failure Caused Lift Accident - NECN
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Sugarloaf: Mechanical Failure Caused Lift Accident

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    The day after seven people were injured when a chairlift went backward, the Maine ski resort released preliminary findings on what caused the accident. (Published Sunday, March 22, 2015)

    One day after the crash of a chairlift at Sugarloaf Mountain injured seven people, the resort says a major mechanical failure is to blame.

    After a preliminary investigation, Sugarloaf says the failure was in one of two gearboxes that connect the motor to the bullwheel that tensions the lift cable.

    "The gearbox failure effectively de-coupled the bullwheel from the lift's primary service brake ... and its anti-reverse brake, which is the first of three redundant backup mechanisms preventing reverse travel," Sugarloaf said in a release.

    Saturday, the King Pine lift stopped going forward and started going backward. Some riders jumped from the malfunctioning lift, while others stayed on.

    One day before the accident, mountain officials say a safety test was conducted on the gearbox, and that the device passed its inspection.

    After the lift malfunctioned, Sugarloaf says that its lift attendant used an emergency brake.

    "This brake slowed the speed of the rollback and ultimately brought the lift to a stop," the release read. "The application of the emergency brake by the lift attendant likely prevented a more extensive rollback."

    Wes Wigglesworth of Amesbury, Massachusetts, was with family friends on the mountain Saturday. They were among the skiers who were trapped.

    "It was a very abrupt stop," said Wigglesworth. "Something was wrong."

    Wigglesworth was about two-thirds up the mountain. His friend, David Legg, who was riding with his son Will and his classmate Andrew, were closer to the top.

    The veteran skiers knew there was a malfunction, but they weren't sure what to do. They were too high up off the ground to jump, so they were trapped for over an hour before being rescued.

    While they waited, Wigglesworth took video of the chaotic situation. He says he could hear screaming.

    People dropped their skis and snowboards before being pulled down by the ski patrol.

    Sugarloaf noted that its priority is those who were hurt by the accident.

    "Our first concern this morning is for those who were injured," an earlier statement read. "Things like this shake us as much as they do you, and we're determined to understand the cause. We never want our guests to experience something like this again."

    Stay with necn as this story develops.

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