Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blackcomb Mountain's Excalibur Gondola Tower collapse (2)

Early this morning, the British Columbia Safety Authority (BCSA), in conjunction with Whistler Blackcomb, will complete a secondary inspection of mountain lifts currently in operation. A preliminary inspection across Whistler and Blackcomb was undertaken throughout the night by a team of 20 lift maintenance staff. After determining the cause of yesterday's tower failure on Blackcomb Mountain's Excalibur Gondola, and reviewing all similar tower structures to confirm that no similar issues exist, the BCSA is expected to confirm Whistler Blackcomb's findings that the integrity of other towers have not been compromised.
Tuesday afternoon at approximately 2:30pm, a structural failure on tower 4 of the Excalibur Gondola caused the gondola to cease operation. All gondola cabins remained on the line; however a number of the cabins dropped approximately 30 feet with the sagging span, and two cabins hit the ground, injuring several people. Twelve guests were treated at the Whistler Medical Clinic and all walked out on their own accord later that evening. A total of 53 people were evacuated off the affected lower line of the gondola. The evacuation was completed by 5:51pm.
Several factors converged to cause the tower failure. The structure of the tower is such that two parts are spliced together. Water had seeped into the tower which had turned to ice with the recent extreme cold temperatures. The ice build-up caused the tower splice to rupture, an extremely unusual situation referred to as "ice-jacking".
The Excalibur Gondola is a Doppelmayr lift, and was installed in 1994. A world-leader in lift design and manufacturing, Doppelmayr lifts are in operation throughout the world and their safety record is excellent.