October inspection of ski lift found routine problems

**  CAPTION CORRECTION, CORRECTS TO SUGARLOAF BEING  THE STATE'S SECOND TALLEST MOUNTAIN AND TALLEST SKI MOUNTAIN ** This photo provided by Al Noyes shows skiers and lift chairs on the slope after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski mountain and second tallest mountain overall at the Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Al Noyes)  NO SALES
AP | AP
** CAPTION CORRECTION, CORRECTS TO SUGARLOAF BEING THE STATE'S SECOND TALLEST MOUNTAIN AND TALLEST SKI MOUNTAIN ** This photo provided by Al Noyes shows skiers and lift chairs on the slope after a lift derailed on the state's tallest ski mountain and second tallest mountain overall at the Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Al Noyes) NO SALES
Posted Dec. 30, 2010, at 3:22 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — An October inspection uncovered three problems with a Sugarloaf ski lift that derailed and fell to the ground this week, injuring eight people, but the issues appeared to be routine, according to an inspection report.

An inspector found that the 35-year-old East Spillway lift needed a guard placed over a drive shaft running from an electric motor to a service brake and recommended that trees and brush to be cut under the chair’s top section. He also wrote that some of the numbers on the lift towers were missing or not visible.

Sugarloaf took care of the first two problems and said it would put numbers on the towers once they were painted before ski season got under way, the report said.

The report doesn’t shed any light on what might have made a lift cable pop out of place Tuesday morning, causing five chairs to plummet 25 to 35 feet to the ground. The resort, located 120 miles north of Portland in Carrabassett Valley, said employees were attempting to realign the cable when the accident happened.

Eight people were sent to hospitals and dozens more were stranded on the lift for more than an hour.

The problems identified in the annual inspection report were routine maintenance problems, “nothing out of the ordinary,” said Sugarloaf spokesman Ethan Austin.

At least one of the injured skiers remained hospitalized Thursday two days after Tuesday’s accident. Mike Katz was in satisfactory condition at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

The Maine Board of Elevator and Tramway Safety is continuing to investigate the accident.

Austin said the lift, which was installed in 1975 and modified in 1983, remained out of commission Thursday. The damaged chairs and the wheels supporting the cable were being brought to the bottom of the mountain as part of the investigation, he said.

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