Sugarloaf Ski Accident Investigation: Winds to Blame?

PHOTO: Sugarloaf Ski Lift Accident
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Investigators will take a close look today at a Maine ski lift that broke Tuesday morning, sending five chairs of people plummeting more than 20 feet to the snow-packed ground below.

At least six people were injured when a line on the chairlift at the Sugarloaf ski area suddenly snapped. The resort said none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Longtime skier Rebecca London said everything seemed normal as she rode the chairlift until it stopped for a second time. Then, without warning, she suddenly realized she was falling.

"It [the lift] kind of jerked backwards and then all the sudden I could feel myself falling and see the chair in front of me falling as well," London, 20, told "Good Morning America" today. "It was happening so fast I really didn't have time. ... I didn't even realize what had happened until I was on the ground."

Investigators are reportedly looking at wind as a possible cause of the accident on the Spillway lift, given that there were 40-mph gusts at the time. The lift had been closed earlier in the day because of the high winds but reopened half an hour before the accident.

On its website, Sugarloaf, which is 120 miles north of Portland, said the Spillway lift "is ... vulnerable to wind holds," and that improvements are underway to improve the mechanism.

But London said the wind did not seem to be a problem at the time.

"Maybe it was a small factor but I don't think that it was a giant factor," she said. "I don't remember it being outrageously high winds yesterday. ... I also have been on that chairlift in higher winds."

Witnesses also said a worker appeared to be in the middle of repairing part of the lift tower at the time of the accident, which a spokesman for Sugarloaf could not confirm.

Fallen Skier: Snow Drift Helped, Family Came to Rescue

While it was a long drop, London said heavy snow Monday provided several inches of fresh powder that helped cushion the fall.

"I think that helped a tremendous amount," London said of the snow drift.

London said that after she realized she was OK, she went around to others, trying to comfort some of the six people who were injured. Her brother and father, both members of the mountain's volunteer ski patrol, also responded to the emergency.

The Spillway East chairlift is 4,013 feet long. It was installed in 1975 and modified in 1983. It moves at a speed of 500 feet per minute, and the chairs are 50 feet apart.

Ben Simms, a senior at Harrington High School in Pennsylvania, told ABC News Tuesday he was on the lift when "there was a big jerk and we bounced up and down about 10 feet and then we stopped and we were there for about a half-hour before we found out about what happened."

Simms was skiing with his mother, Paula Michaud, who was 10 chairs ahead of him.

"I thought maybe she was one of the people who fell," Simms said. "Every time they'd bring someone down in the toboggan I'd look to see if it was my mom. I was nervous; I thought maybe my mom had fallen."

As it turned out, his mother was also one of the 150 other skiers who remained stuck on the lift until rescuers were able to slowly bring them down using a pulley system.

Although it was a shocking ordeal, London said, she'll "absolutely" be back on the slopes tomorrow, if possible.

"I know this never happens. It didn't even enter my mind that this could happen," she said. "I'll probably be out there tomorrow."

ABC News' Andrew Springer and Monica Escobedo contributed to this report.

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