Four people injured, two critically, after chairlift crash at B.C. ski hill
Published Saturday, March 1, 2014 1:02PM PST
Last Updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 6:49PM PST
Four people had to be rushed to hospital after a bizarre circumstance sent a chairlift crashing to the ground at a West Kelowna ski resort Saturday.
Two ski patrollers, a ski instructor and a member of the public were taken to Kelowna General Hospital after their chairs fell several metres to the ground at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort.
According to the hill’s general manager Mike Morin, an empty chair that was swinging back and forth struck the first lift tower along the double chairlift at around 11 a.m., causing it and the occupied chairs in front and behind it to plummet to the ground.
“Three of our staff members were injured, non-life threatening, but anybody that is injured is a little bit traumatic to us,” Morin said.
BC Ambulance Service confirmed two people were critically injured in the crash while two sustained minor injuries. One of the critically injured people had to be airlifted to hospital while the other was taken in an enhanced life support ambulance. Two others were transported by regular ambulance.
The identities of the injured have not been disclosed.
Morin said the double chair has been in operation since 1967, but an incident like this has never occurred before.
“It wasn’t windy. I’m sure our lift inspector, the inspection branch will be looking into that to find out why this chair would’ve been swinging,” Morin said. “This is an extremely rare circumstance; in the past 20 years that I’ve been here I have never seen this.”
Twelve other chairs were occupied at the time of the incident and all passengers were rescued about an hour later without injury, he said.
The double chair remains closed indefinitely, while the resort’s triple chair was closed Saturday because staff members were too traumatized by the incident to continue working, according to Morin.
“The inspector will have to guide me,” he said. “They’re going to be looking at if there was any injuries to the rope, to the lift, to the tower, before we can even start thinking about rotating that lift again.”
Skier Tyler Mow said he was on an adjacent triple chair with a friend when he witnessed the chairs falling to the ground.
“We were on the opposite chair at about the first pole, looked across, heard a big noise,” he said. “It sounded almost like something scraping on the ground, which was the chairs.”
Mow said he and his friend had noticed something seemed off with the chairlifts just before the frightening incident occurred.
“The chairs felt springy early in the day when we were on it,” he said. “We’re pretty big guys, the two of us who were on it, and we were just commenting that it felt funny, that something was different.”
All four of the people injured remained in Kelowna General Hospital Saturday as of late Saturday afternoon, according to BCAS.