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Derailed Sugarloaf Lift Targeted for Upgrade
12/28/2010   Reported By: A.J. Higgins

State inspectors from the Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety were dispatched to Maine's tallest ski mountain today after a chair lift carrying more than 200 people derailed at around 10:30 a.m. Sugarloaf employees say five chairs came down on the Spillway East Chairlift and injured several people who plummeted as far as 30 feet to the slope below.

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Derailed Sugarloaf Lift Targeted for Upgrade Listen
 Duration:
1:49

sugarloaf pic

Injured and stranded skiers are evacuated at the Sugarloaf Ski Resort this morning, in a photo from the scene.

The lift in question was about 35 years old and Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin told the Associated Press that it was on a list of items targeted for improvement. He declined to say when the improvement was scheduled to occur.

Jill Gray, community affairs director at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, says her facility treated six people who were injured on the mountain. The hospital, she says, was prepared to deal with the emergency situation because of training programs that are regularly scheduled at the facility.

"We regularly have disaster drills and had one that nearly simulated this same one I think in November," she says.

Gov. John Baldacci issued a statement thanking all of the first responders for their skills and proficiency in dealing with the emergency. Baldacci said it was clear during a full-scale exercise this November that the safety personnel at Sugarloaf, the local police and fire departments, the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency and their State Partners at the Maine Emergency Management Agency were well-prepared for an event like this.

In addition to the patients admitted at Franklin Memorial, Gray says one injured skier was flown by helicopter to Portland's Maine Medical Center. According to an Associated Press report, the resort says none of the injuries from today's chair lift derailment appear to be life threatening.

State authorities say it's unclear if the problem was mechanical, wind related, or both. A state official says the lift was properly inspected and licensed. By 1:00 p.m., some witnesses at the scene reported that all of the stranded skiiers had been evacuated from the chair lift.

Efforts by MPBN to reach Sugarloaf officials for comment by airtime were unsuccessful.



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