Thu, Dec 18, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Gondola tower collapses in Whistler

‘PRETTY FREAKY’ It took more than three hours to evacuate the 53 people who were stranded in about 30 gondolas. A few injuries were reported


More than 50 people were evacuated from about 30 gondola cars after a tower supporting the cables partially collapsed at Canada’s Whistler ski resort.

Police said there were no serious injuries at the resort, which is to host the alpine events of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Thirteen people were sent to the Whistler Health Care Center but all had been released by late on Tuesday night, said Anna Marie D’Angelo, a spokeswoman for Vancouver Coastal Health, a regional health services agency.

Graeme Bell said he was in a gondola car that hit the ground.

“It was pretty freaky. We heard the noise of the tower collapsing and then the cabin started shaking and down it went,” Bell told CTV television. “It hit the ground. It busted one of the windows and we jumped out.”

Bell said passengers were complaining of sore backs and one man had a bloody head.

One of the cars hit a bus shelter, while two more were left dangling when the tower collapsed. A crane was brought in to support the leaning tower and fire crews worked quickly to evacuate three cars that were the most in danger.

The towers support a wire cable that the gondola cars are attached to.

It took more than three hours to evacuate the 53 people stranded in about 30 gondolas.

The resort said in a news release that the gondola section where the incident took place is approximately 9m above the ground.

“We are very thankful that no one was seriously injured in this incident,” the release said.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Steve Wright said the passengers who were rescued were in good spirits and were met by emergency health services. Frigid temperatures had not been a concern because the people were wearing protective ski clothing and were in a sheltered environment, he added.

Amber Turnau, a spokeswoman for the resort, said the tower that collapsed is on the lower half of the lift. She said Tower 4, the one that went down, is not far from the starting point.

The resort just unveiled a new lift connecting the peaks of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, the highest in the world at 435m above the ground. But it was not affected by Tuesday’s collapse, which was on another lift.

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