By Beth Christian Broschart
The Parsons Advocate
DAVIS – An emergency call at approximately 9 a.m. Saturday morning resulted in many emergency crews and personnel heading up the mountain to lend a hand. Initial reports were that a ski lift at Timberline Four Seasons Resort had derailed – and many feared the worst. Emergency crews from Tucker and Randolph counties, workers at Timberline Resort, local professionals and ski patrol members came together to work quickly and assure everyone was safe and cared for.
Canaan Valley Volunteer Fire Department Chief Sandy Green said when his crew arrived at Timberline, it appeared the top of one of the towers chair broke off, stranding approximately 100 people on the triple chairlift.
“There were several people who fell to the ground,” Green said. “There were only two minor injuries that we know of. The aircraft is here (on the landing zone in Davis) because Health Net was listening to the radio traffic and understood the situation and decided they would get proactive and bring an aircraft and position it here just in case it was needed. But (as of 10 a.m.) we have released all of our other rescue assets.”
Green said when the initial call came in, he and emergency crews had ramped up for a potential huge problem, only to find out it wasn’t as big. “The lift evacuation going on is routine and they have practiced for this many times,” Green said.
Green said emergency crews from Canaan Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Davis Volunteer Fire Department and Harman Volunteer Fire Department assisted at the scene along with ambulance crews from Tucker and Randolph counties. Health Net 6 remained on a landing zone in Davis until it was determined their services were not needed. He said law enforcement from the county assisted in case they were needed for traffic control.
Shannon Harman Kerr from the Tucker County EMS said the majority of the focus was on removing folks stranded on the chairlift.
“When you have situation like this, there are concerns for a secondary collapse, so they tried to get folks down as quickly as possible,” Harman Kerr said. “They are trying not to put further stress on the lift.”
On Saturday, Kendra Curran, Timberline Director of Sales and Marketing, said they were not sure what caused the breach in the chairlift and that the incident would be investigated
“We will investigate the incident but right now, we are making sure everyone is safe,” Curran said. “Everybody worked together and figured out what to do and where to do it. We are pleased that everyone is off safe. We remained open because we have very loyal skiers and we are loyal to them.”
“We know two people were sent to Oakland to the hospital and most of the injuries were like typical ski injuries,” Curran said. “It is my understanding that there were approximately 25 people involved in the incident.”
On Sunday, Curran reported that those two injured folks had been released from the hospital and were doing fine, suffering only minor bruising and soreness.
On Saturday, Timberline Four Seasons Resort sent out the following press release;
Early this morning Timberline’s Thunderstruck triple chairlift suffered mechanical failure, prompting the resort to shut down the lift. Due to this morning’s incident nine people were evaluated for injury, two of which were transported to a nearby medical facility with minor injuries, the other seven were cleared in the field. All other passengers have been safely removed from the lift. We would like to thank Canaan Valley ski patrol, Timberline ski patrol, the local fire departments and emergency services for their prompt response to this unfortunate incident. Life Flight was on the scene as a precautionary measure, but thankfully was not needed. Timberline holds the safety of our skiers as one of our highest priorities.
The Silver Queen lift will continue operating to transport skiers to the top of the mountain. Because of the delays caused by this morning’s lift malfunction, Timberline will keep Salamander Run open until dusk for day skiers, and night skiing will take place as scheduled.
The cause of this failure is yet to be determined, pending a complete investigation by licensed engineers. All of Timberline’s lifts undergo thorough and rigorous inspection in a timely fashion and are in compliance with all applicable safety standards, including federal guidelines for maintenance and annual mechanical inspection and the strict safety requirements of Timberline’s insurance provider. Daily maintenance checks are performed each morning by resort staff, and ski patrol rides the lifts and completes a visual inspection of Timberline’s lifts before they are opened to the public. The resort maintains a mechanic on staff for routine service. In our 30 year history, Timberline has never had a lift failure resulting in injury or in any way comparable to today’s malfunction, and the resort will continue to investigate the cause of this incident to ensure the safety of our skiers.