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UPDATE 3: Sugarloaf Mountain Spillway East Incident Update - 4:00pm

Carrabassett Valley, ME (Dec. 29, 2010) – Inspectors from the State of Maine Board of Elevators and Tramways, along with mountain operations personnel and representatives from Sugarloaf Mountain are investigating the deropement of the Spillway East chairlift, which took place at approximately 10:30am on Tuesday, December 28. 

The investigation, which is still on-going, began on the afternoon of Tuesday, December 28.  Today, the State of Maine Board of Elevators and Tramways believes that wind was a contributing factor in the lift deropement.

“Our two primary concerns right now are for the rapid recovery of those injured yesterday and the safety of all Sugarloaf guests,” said Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin. “We’re incredibly grateful for the help offered by local and state agencies.”   

A detailed report will be issued by the State of Maine Board of Elevators and Tramways once the investigation is complete.  

Timeline of incident; mountain personnel response
Sugarloaf experienced winds immediately following the major snowstorm which dropped 22” of snow on the resort this Monday.  As a result, several lifts at the resort, including the Spillway East chairlift, were placed on wind hold at the start of operations Tuesday. 

Winds diminished as the morning progressed, and Spillway East was evaluated by the ski patrol director of Sugarloaf Mountain and a chairlift mechanic.   

That evaluation included towers, top and bottom terminals, and the completion of Sugarloaf’s standard safety checks.   The chairlift was opened to the public at 9:55 a.m. 

At 10:23 AM, the Lift Operations Department received a maintenance request for Tower 8 from a Sugarloaf ski patroller.  Two chairlift mechanics were dispatched at that time.  The chairlift cable was observed to be running toward the outside of the rubber liners of the sheave train (the wheels on which the cable is supported) on Tower 8.   

At 10:30AM, one lift mechanic arrived at Tower 8 and another arrived at the bottom terminal of Spillway East.  Working in tandem, the mechanic at the bottom terminal of Spillway East communicated with the mechanic on Tower 8 while he made an adjustment to the sheave train per Sugarloaf’s operating and maintenance procedures.  The lift was slowly started to enable the cable to settle back into the correct location on the sheaves.   

The realignment effort was unsuccessful. The mechanics repeated the procedure, again unsuccessfully.   The mechanic on Tower 8 determined that it would be inappropriate to run the chair at normal operating speed and the lift should be closed. 

Mechanics started the lift at a slow operating speed to begin off-loading the guests who were on the lift.  

Shortly after starting the lift at reduced speed, the lift cable deroped from Tower 8, leaving the cable suspended between Tower 9 and Tower 7.  Lacking the support of the sheave wheels on Tower 8, five chairs struck the snow below.   

When the deropement occurred, the mechanic on Tower 8 immediately notified the mechanic at the bottom terminal of Spillway East about the deropement.  The lift was immediately stopped and locked out from further movement.   

Ski patrol was immediately notified of the deropement, and lift evacuation procedures began at 10:45 am.  At 12:14pm all guests had been evacuated from the lift.  Sugarloaf ski patrol estimates that 150 people were evacuated. 

Members from ski patrol, grooming department, snowmaking department, resort ambassadors, lift maintenance personnel and the Carrabassett Valley Fire Department responded to the scene.  In total, 54 people contributed to the evacuation of the lift. 

Update on injuries:
Six people were treated for injuries and sent to Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, Maine.  A seventh person, who initially was cleared to leave the scene, was admitted later in the day.  Today, Sugarloaf Mountain learned that an eighth guest, who was initially cleared to leave the scene, checked into Franklin Memorial Hospital.  

Three patients were transported from Franklin Memorial Hospital to Maine Medical Center in Portland.   

Due to patient and family confidentiality regulations, Sugarloaf cannot release information regarding the identity or nature of injuries to individuals. Further updates on the conditions of those injured can be obtained by contacting the hospitals.  

Three guests who were unhurt requested to be transported to the base of the mountain after they were evacuated from the lift. One was taken via toboggan and two were taken inside a heated snow grooming tractor.     

Status of the Spillway East Chairlift:
The State of Maine Elevator and Tramway Board has noted that there was some damage to lift components due to the deropement. All mechanical components remained in place after the incident and those components are currently being removed and will be analyzed further. The resort plans to replace the damaged parts with new equipment and go through safety testing and inspections prior to reopening the lift to the public. 

Other lifts at Sugarloaf continue normal operations. 

“Sugarloaf Mountain wishes the best for the people injured in the accident,” said Austin.  “The resort remains committed to guest safety and its culture of safety instilled in every employee.” 

For additional information from the National Ski Areas Association regarding chairlift safety statistics, please visit: http://www.nsaa.org/nsaa/press/lift-safety-2010.pdf.