Published December 28, 2010
Several people -- some of them children -- were injured Tuesday after a chairlift derailed at a popular Maine ski resort, sending five chairs crashing to the ground.
Five adults and three children were taken to a hospital after the double-chair lift at Sugarloaf derailed during a busy vacation week at the resort about four hours away from Boston and Montreal. Dozens of skiers remained on the crippled lift for an hour or more until patrols could get them down.
An official at Maine's Sugarloaf ski area called the incident at the popular Carrabassett Valley resort a "big deal," adding that emergency responders are on the scene.
Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin told Fox News that the chairs plunged 25 to 30 feet at approximately 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Jill Gray, a spokeswoman for Franklin Memorial Hospital about in Farmington, 45 miles away, said eight adults and children were taken there but did not give details on the injuries.
One of the injured was flown on to Maine Medical Center in Portland, she said.
None of the injuries are considered life-threatening, Austin said, adding that most of the victims are reporting "lower back problems."
He said the lift had been evacuated.
While the incident is still under investigation, Austin suggested that high winds might have caused the derailment.
The resort was not operating the failed lift and two others early in the day because of winds but deemed them safe to use before the accident at 10:15 a.m., said Ethan Austin, spokesman for Sugarloaf. The resort said the cable that supports the chairs jumped off track. Winds were about 40 mph at the time and an estimated 220 people were on the lift.
"We're kind of known as a windy mountain," he said.
The lift was built in 1975, updated in 1983and was properly licensed and inspected for 2010, said Doug Dunbar of Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.
Sugarloaf had been considering replacing the lift for several years, but there was never a concrete plan until recently, when a new lift figured into the resorts capital improvement plan, Austin said.
The replacement lift under consideration would have been heavier and could handle high winds.
"We haven't had a derailment of this magnitude in the 60 years Sugarloaf has been in operation," said Richard Wilkinson, vice president for mountain operations.
Sugarloaf assured visitors that its lifts are inspected each day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report