Ski lift accident injures 7, shakes up Massachusetts family


Skiing can be risky, which may be the reason some Boston residents like it. Most participants probably expect they’ll at least reach the top of a ski slope or mountain safely before encountering any problems.That wasn’t the case for several recent visitors to a New England ski resort.

Sugarloaf officials blamed a malfunctioning gear box for the failure of braking systems on the King Pine quad chairlift. The lift chairs moved backward 450 feet before a technician used an emergency brake to stop them. Seven people were hurt and three were hospitalized.

A Massachusetts man was among the terrified skiers who jumped to the ground in a panic. The skier’s spouse and two children had to be rescued from a separate lift chair by a ski patrol. Reports said that none of the hospitalized skiers appeared to have suffered life-threatening injuries.

No problems were detected when the 27-year-old lift was load tested and inspected last fall. Maintenance workers serviced the gearbox chairlift the day before the accident. The last of three brake systems failed when the faulty gearbox prevented the first two systems from working.

Ski industry representatives pointed out no one has died in a U.S. ski lift accident caused by mechanical failure since 1973, but visitors have been injured. A 2010 accident at Sugarloaf sent five lift chairs crashing to the ground from a height of 30 feet. The double chairlift that broke down was 35 years old.

Ski resort operators can’t control how well a person skis, but they can work to ensure that conditions surrounding a visitor’s experience are reasonably safe. Massachusetts property owners and operators may be held liable for visitors’ injuries when negligence is the cause of an accident.

Premises liability laws require owners to maintain properties, identify dangerous conditions and remove or warn visitors about known hazards. A failure to do so is considered a breach of the property owner’s duty of care to guests.

Source: The Washington Post, “Resort: Backup brakes didn’t deploy on Maine ski lift,” March. 22, 2015

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