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Gondola tower collapses at Whistler, B.C., resort

Published: 12/16/08 Topics: Comments: -

Gondola tower collapses at Whistler, B.C., resort

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/6600ap_canada_whistler_gondola_tower.html

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- More than 50 people were evacuated from about 30 ski gondolas after a tower supporting the cables partially collapsed Tuesday at Canada's Whistler resort.

Police said there were no serious injuries at the resort, which is to host the alpine events of the 2010 winter Olympic games. But health officials said five people had been taken to a hospital after the mid-afternoon accident.

While a crane was brought in to support the leaning tower, fire crews worked quickly to evacuate three cars that were most in danger.

One of the gondola cars hit a bus shelter, while two more were left dangling before the broken tower. In all, it took more than three hours for fire crews and the mountain's ski patrol to evacuate 53 people, Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort said. The gondola section involved is about 30 feet above the ground.

Doug Forseth, resort senior vice president, cited structural failure on a tower on Blackcomb Mountain's Excalibur gondola. An investigation into the cause of the accident will begin Wednesday, he said. "We have representatives of Dopelmayr, the lift manufacturer, coming tomorrow," Forseth said. "We will start to look at this failure in daylight and start to look at the possibilities of what might have caused this."

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Steve Wright said the passengers who were rescued were in good spirits and were met by emergency health services. Wright said frigid temperatures were not a concern because the people were wearing protective ski clothing and were in a sheltered environment.

Amber Turnau, a spokeswoman for Whistler Blackcomb, said the tower that collapsed is on the lower half of the lift. She said Tower 4, the one that went down, is not far from the gondola's start. Graeme Bell said his gondola car hit the ground."It was pretty freaky. We heard the noise of the tower collapsing and then the cabin started shaking and down it went," Bell told CTV television. "It hit the ground. It busted one of the windows and we jumped out."

Bell said those around him were complaining of sore backs and one man had a bloody head.

All of the Olympic Games events will take place on Whistler mountain, not Blackcomb where the accident occurred. It's not the first ski lift accident at the resort.

A Dec. 23, 1995, accident on the Quicksilver ski lift killed two men and injured nine other people.

The high-speed lift was ferrying skiers to the top of a run when one chair slipped on a cable and slammed into another, setting off a cascade that sent four chairs crashing into the bush and rocks below.

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Blog #: 0437 – 12/16/08

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