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Update: BC Safety Authority shares preliminary findings

Update: Thursday, March 6, 4 p.m.

The BC Safety Authority has released its preliminary findings in the Crystal Mountain chairlift investigation.

Jason Gill, provincial safety manager of passenger ropeways and amusement devices for BC Safety Authority, as well as two BCSA safety officers have been on site since Saturday.

"Preliminary findings indicate that a swinging chair struck a tower causing a full deropement," said Gill.

"A non-functioning tensioning system was also discovered and is being considered as a possible contributing factor to the incident.

"We have now been able to get the chairlift to an operational state and the next phase of the investigation will require dynamic tests in order to perform further analysis of the installation."

According to Gill, the chairlift was first put into operation in 1967 and was last inspected by BCSA on Dec. 1, 2013.

"While older chairlifts are generally safe when maintained properly, we are also looking at what conditions may have changed since our last assessment."

Gill added this type of incident is "extremely uncommon" and noted chairlifts in B.C. are very safe and most incidents involve rider error.

"The number of reported injuries from passenger ropeways has declined steadily every year since 2009."

Earlier Thursday, Crystal Mountain put out its own statement updating the situation.

According to the release, three of the four injured skiers have been released from Kelowna General Hospital, while one remains under professional care.

"A 16-year-old ski instructor suffered a broken arm; his 45-year-old student sustained broken ribs," states the release.

"The husband and wife ski patrol workers are doing well. The wife who received the most injuries will remain in care for the next two weeks."

According to Crystal Mountain's statement, that woman's injuries included: Broken ribs, a broken clavicle and damage to some vertebrae tips. She's now out of the intensive care unit.

Mike Morin, general manager of Crystal Mountain Resort, said the ski hill will remain closed until the BC Safety Authority confirms the chairlift is completely safe.

"We are doing everything in our power to assist the investigation so we can get the resort back up and running as soon as possible."

Counselling for staff members has been organized and ski school lessons have been rescheduled to next week.

No decision on season pass holder discounts or refunds will be made until after the BC Safety Authority has concluded its full investigation.

 

Pending the results of the investigation, Crystal Mountain plans to open from Thursday, March 13 to Sunday, March 16. The tentative closing date for the season is March 23.

 

 

 

***

The BC Safety Authority is continuing its investigation at Crystal Mountain Resort regarding Saturday's chairlift incident that injured four people.

But, as of Wednesday, the chairlift was still not operational.

Quinn Newcomb, leader of communications and media relations with BC Safety Authority, said significant damage to the chairlift has prevented BC Safety Authority from carrying out the next phase of their investigation.

"The challenge is getting it repaired enough so that it can operate to perform testing and analysis," said Newcomb.

Scott Henderson, spokesman for Crystal Mountain Resort, confirmed the hill would be closed Thursday and Friday, but said he was unsure about the weekend.

Newcomb wasn't willing to give an estimated timeline of how long the investigation could take.

"We're taking it day by day," said Newcomb.

"This type of incident is so rare. It's just a matter of getting the right engineering experts up there to work on getting the equipment back up and operational again."

According to Henderson, the ski hill was initially expected to be open until at least March 16.

"Sometimes they can remain open longer, depending on demand and conditions," said Henderson.

He noted management at Crystal Mountain are still optimistic the ski hill will re-open before that date; however, they are waiting to see the results of BC Safety Authority's investigation.

Four people were taken to Kelowna General Hospital Saturday after three chairs from the lift plummeted to the ground.

One of the mountain's ski patrollers who was most seriously hurt in the accident is recovering from her injuries, noted Henderson.

"She's out of the intensive care unit and doing a lot better.

"She has already said she's ready to participate in the ski patrol next year as well."

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

Twitter: @PatersonWade

 

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