CARRABASSETT VALLEY, Maine (AP) — A chairlift at a Maine ski resort stopped and then began sliding backward down the mountain Saturday, prompting frantic riders to jump off and injuring seven, officials and witnesses said.
The accident at Sugarloaf Mountain Resort happened five years after eight skiers were hurt when one of its chairlifts derailed, causing five chairs to fall 25 to 35 feet to the ground.
Three people were taken to a hospital for treatment Saturday, though none are believed to have life-threatening injuries, resort spokesman Ethan Austin said.
“It was really scary,” said David Segre, 42, of Falmouth, who was standing in the crowded lift line. “It was like a gear had let loose and it was slowly picking up speed going the wrong way.”
“So all the chairs … they were slipping backward. And as gravity works they started to go faster and faster and people were jumping off at the lower levels,” he said.
Segre estimated that the lift went the wrong way for about a minute, traveling about 200 or 300 yards, before it stopped. One man who wasn’t able to jump off ended up going around the loading area and heading up the mountain on the other side, he said.
Susan Haws Clifford said she and her daughter managed to jump off the chairlift unharmed.
“My daughter and I were on the lift when it started heading backwards really fast,” Clifford told WMTW on Facebook. “We were able to unbind our skis and jump off uninjured.”
The injured were treated by ski patrol and taken off the mountain for treatment by emergency medical responders, Austin said.
About 230 people were riding the King Pine quad lift at the time of the accident, officials said. Those still on board after the lift was stopped were evacuated.
The cause of the accident is under investigation. The chairlift receives routine daily inspections for safety, Austin said.
In 2010, a 35-year-old lift derailed at Sugarloaf, injuring eight people. That lift was replaced in 2011.