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Statement regarding the King Pine accident report

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

John Burpee, the Chief Boiler/Elevator and Tramway Inspector for the Maine Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation, released his final report today regarding the King Pine rollback that occurred on March 21, 2015, thus concluding the investigation into the accident. 

Sugarloaf President and General Manager Karl Strand has provided the following statement regarding the report:

"As it has been since the day of the accident, our first concern remains with those who were injured or otherwise affected by the King Pine rollback. 

We would like to thank the Chief Inspector and the many engineers and lift experts who worked with us throughout the investigation into the accident. 

In his report, the Inspector stated that it is critical that recommended maintenance procedures and inspection intervals on gear sets and associated drive systems are followed and incorporated into a lift maintenance program. We agree, and it is important to note that the King Pine lift was maintained to all manufacturer recommendations, and was inspected by the State of Maine and an independent lift engineer prior to the season. 

As noted in the report, the lift also passed a state-required load test on November 17, 2014, and held a valid certificate of operation from the State of Maine. As with all of our lifts, King Pine underwent daily, weekly, and monthly inspections, as well as a number of sophisticated diagnostic tests prior to the accident, beyond what is recommended by the manufacturer or required by regulators. These tests included an oil analysis on January 19, 2015, and a vibration analysis on March 19, 2015. Both tests were conducted by independent contractors and revealed no irregularities. 

In the months since the accident Sugarloaf has worked with engineers and lift experts to identify new inspection techniques that will better enable mechanics to identify abnormal wear or defects to components located within a lift's gearbox. These include borescope inspections, which utilize small optical tools to view areas that would otherwise not be visible. This type of inspection is not explicitly recommended by lift manufactures or required by regulators, and is more typically used in maintenance of machinery like nuclear reactor heads and aviation turbines. Borescope inspections were conducted on gear boxes in all of Sugarloaf's lifts this summer, and will now be a standard part of Sugarloaf's lift maintenance program.

The report concludes that the lift's emergency brake did not engage automatically, as it was designed to do. While our engineers' findings lead them to believe that the emergency brake did in fact deploy automatically, we do not dispute the findings of the Inspector and recognize that definitive proof of the brake's behavior during the accident is lacking. Ultimately the accident was the result of a confluence of mechanical failures, not attributable to any one single factor. 

The report observed that the accident scene was not maintained as it should have been. In the immediate aftermath of the rollback, the first priority of Sugarloaf's personnel was to ensure that the lift would not move further and risk additional injury to guests. In securing the lift, certain components were moved or adjusted from their original positions to ensure that there was no possibility of further movement of the lift while the evacuation of guests was ongoing.

As the Inspector stated, it is crucial that the best available safety technology be employed in chairlifts, regardless of code requirements. Over the past six months Sugarloaf has invested heavily in new safety technology, well beyond manufacturer and regulatory requirements, including the complete replacement of the King Pine drive terminal with a new, state of the art drive terminal, as well as new safety technology (including anti-rollback systems) in all other lifts that employed similar, older style components. 

Sugarloaf continues to work to improve its lift maintenance practices, and will continue to work with lift manufacturers, regulators, and outside lift experts to ensure its lifts meet the highest possible standards for maintenance and safety.

The security and well-being of our guests is our first concern in everything we do, and we are thankful to the State Inspector for helping us achieve a more complete understanding of the factors that contributed last year's accident."


About Sugarloaf- Located in Carrabassett Valley, ME, Sugarloaf is largest ski area in the East, and is home to the only lift-serviced above treeline skiing and riding in the East, and the number one golf course in Maine, according to Golf Digest. Sugarloaf is a member of the Boyne Resorts family of resorts and attractions. Follow: www.sugarloaf.com, www.facebook.com/sugarloaf, and http://twitter.com/sugarloafmaine