Maine Ski Resort Investigates Chair Lift Failure

Dec. 28: At least six people were injured Tuesday when the cable on a chair lift derailed at a Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine (Fox News).

Dec. 28: At least six people were injured Tuesday when the cable on a chair lift derailed at a Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine (Fox News).

A Maine ski resort is beginning to investigate whether a chair lift accident that sent eight people to the hospital was wind-related or mechanical.

Several people -- some of them children -- were injured Tuesday after the lift derailed, sending five chairs crashing to the ground at Sugarloaf, a resort about four hours away from Boston and Montreal.

Five adults and three children were taken to a hospital, and dozens of skiers remained on the crippled lift for an hour or more until patrols could get them down.

The ski resort was being buffeted by winds gusting up to 40 mph a day after the blizzard blew through. A witness said he saw a Sugarloaf employee working on the lift before the derailment.

The resort said the lift, which recently passed an inspection, was due to be replaced -- possibly as early as this coming summer -- partly because of vulnerability to wind.

Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin told Fox News that the chairs plunged 25 to 30 feet at approximately 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. An estimated 220 people were on board.

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.

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.

"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.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report