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Sugarloaf Accident: Lift Wasn't Realigned

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By Jason Beahm on December 31, 2010 10:15 AM

More facts are coming out regarding the Sugarloaf ski accident that injured eight people in Maine. Apparently the chairlift had been declared unsafe by maintenance workers just minutes before it collapsed. High winds, hitting 45 miles per hour may have also contributed to the accident.

About 150 skiers were stuck on the 4,013-foot-long lift and five chairs fell 30 feet to the mountain below. Fortunately no one suffered critical injuries from the Sugarloaf accident. Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin told The New York Times that because of the heavy winds, the resort had decided to take several chairlifts out of service for safety reasons. The resort is now back open, although the lift in question remains closed as the State of Maine Elevator and Tramway Board investigates the accident.

At 10:23 a.m. the day of the incident, 28 minutes after the lift had been opened, Sugarloaf's Lift Operations Department received a maintenance call from an employee on ski patrol duty. The New York Times reports that mechanics found the lift's cable was out of alignment, though they could not fix it. After trying twice, they decided to close the lift. When they restarted it, the lift cable came off its track, causing the Sugarloaf accident.

As we reported earlier, Maine is one of eight states that operate ski resorts under the legal requirement of "ordinary care." That means that Maine is not an assumption of risk state. Ski area operators are required to exercise reasonable care or they can be sued for negligence.

In all likelihood, there will be a number of negligence lawsuits arising out of this Sugarloaf ski accident.

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