Ski Lift Accident at Sugarloaf Mountain

A ski lift broke down at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine sending riders falling 30 feet to the ground.

Several people — some of them children — were injured Tuesday after the lift derailed, sending five chairs crashing to the ground at Sugarloaf, a resort about four hours away from Boston and Montreal.

Before the accident, high winds gusting between 30 mph and 50 mph had delayed the opening of the lift. Conditions at the time of the accident were windy, but not unusually so following a major snowstorm, a spokesman for the resort said.

More than 200 people were trapped for up to 90 minutes after the derailment. The lift has remained closed while investigators look into the incident.

The derailment on one tower of the Spillway East lift happened about 10:30 a.m., when the lift’s cable skipped over the edge of a pulley. Five of the lift’s chairs fell 25 to 30 feet and hit the ground, spokesman Ethan Austin said.

The lift was built in 1975, updated in 1983 and was properly licensed and inspected for 2010, said Doug Dunbar of Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

Sugarloaf had been considering replacing the lift for several years, but there was never a concrete plan until recently, when a new lift figured into the resorts capital improvement plan, Austin said.

The replacement lift under consideration would have been heavier and could handle high winds.

“We haven’t had a derailment of this magnitude in the 60 years Sugarloaf has been in operation,” said Richard Wilkinson, vice president for mountain operations.

Sugarloaf assured visitors that its lifts are inspected each day.