Whistler Blackcomb vice president of operations Doug Forseth says the company is looking at ways to prevent a repeat of the Aug. 5 incident when a 75-year-old woman was killed while boarding the Solar Coaster chairlift.
"We wouldn't have anticipated that happening but it did, so now we have to learn," said Forseth. "It's been one tragedy and to not follow up and try to make things better would be a second tragedy."
By all accounts it was a freak accident. The woman had crossed over from Whistler Mountain on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola and was downloading on the Solar Coaster at roughly 3:30 p.m. When she turned around at the last minute she was knocked partially off the platform, falling 18 inches or 45 cm. The lift operator called out to warn the woman and managed to shut off the lift within a few seconds, but she had already fallen.
Staff and emergency services performed CPR before the woman could be airlifted to the Whistler Health Care Centre, where she was pronounced dead. The RCMP were advised of the incident just after 5 p.m. The B.C. Safety Authority was also notified.
It's not clear why the woman turned around or what the cause of death might have been. The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating. As of Aug. 18 the investigation was still ongoing.
Whistler Blackcomb is continuing to look into the incident with the goal of preventing any future injuries or fatalities.
"The B.C. Safety Authority was there the night of the accident, as well as the coroner and the police," said Forseth. "We've done a full review and there were no violations of the (lift operator's) code at all. People were doing what they should have been doing. This really seems to be a unique, freakish type of accident, but that doesn't stop us from putting our minds into somehow improving it and right now we're in the process of that.
"I think it's important to take something away from this. We had a loss of life and it's important to do better."
Whistler Blackcomb has placed tower pads over the area as a temporary measure, but are looking into options such as padded carpeting. Other lifts on the mountain are also being examined, although they are generally all different because of the terrain and would require different solutions.
Forseth said that hundreds of thousands of people have downloaded the lift over the years with anyone falling off the loading ramp. Given the short drop no nets or fences were required by regulations.
The identity of the woman has not been released at her family's request. She was from out of province and visiting Whistler with five family members.
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