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Mar 25, 2015 6:43 PM

Chairlift accident caused by broken drive shaft

From staff and wire reports

CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine - Investigators looking into a chairlift malfunction that injured seven skiers at Maine's Sugarloaf ski resort believe the rollback was caused by a broken drive shaft on a gearbox.

They also said an emergency brake activated automatically, contrary to early reports that a worker had to manually activate the brake system.

A team released the findings of a preliminary review and investigation on Wednesday.

Officials said the gearbox failed in a way that took the two main brake systems offline, necessitating the emergency brake. They said another brake system that's akin to putting a stick in the spokes of a spinning bicycle wheel failed to activate because of a design flaw.

A modification to the lift to prevent a similar situation has been approved and is being installed on six other lifts at Sugarloaf.

They are Skidway, Sawduster, Snubber, Double Runner East, Double Runner West and Bucksaw. The Skidway, Sawduster, Snubber, and Double Runner lifts have been temporarily shut down. The Bucksaw lift was not scheduled to operate until Friday and will be modified before then.

The Saturday mishap came just days before top skiers began arriving for the national alpine championships, which started Wednesday.

Seven guests were hurt, and four were taken to Franklin Memorial Hospital. About 230 guests were on the lift before it was evacuated.

"Our first thoughts remain with those injured, and our sincere hope is for their speedy recovery," Sugarloaf General Manager John Diller said. "I'm grateful that we now have a clearer understanding of what occurred."


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