Shortly after the Thunderstruck triple chair at Timberline Resort, West Virginia, opened on Saturday morning, an entire cross arm sheave train assembly detached from its perch atop a tower and fell to the ground, bringing with it the haul rope and a handful of chairs. Twenty-five people came in contact with the snow as a result, with nine of them experiencing minor injuries. Seven were treated on-site, and two others were transported to a nearby hospital before being released later that day.
Originally reported as a derailment, the cross arm collapse was confirmed as the cause of the lift failure by Timberline GM Tom Blanzy in an interview on Monday morning. According to Blanzy, what caused the cross arm to fall is currently under investigation.
“We’re going to have some people on site today [Monday] doing some testing to check all the welds, check the circumstances, check the cable, check the wheels, and everything else,” said Blanzy. “I don’t want to speculate, that’s why we have chairlift engineers who have experience designing and building lifts coming here to tell us what happened.”
In the interview today, Blanzy said passengers fell anywhere from 10 to 20 feet, and he feels very fortunate and thankful there were no serious injuries, “As that cross arm came down it didn’t hit anybody, so I think someone was looking out for us,” he added.
Blanzy said the resort undertakes regular lift inspections, including daily inspections by resort staff. This is the first time since Timberline has been operating that anyone was injured as a result of a chairlift failure.
About 100 other passengers were safely evacuated by ski patrol within approximately two hours of the incident.
The fixed-grip triple was manufactured by Borvig and installed at Timberline in 1986. Borvig made lifts in the US from 1962 to 1991.