Investigators probing the fatal accident on Whistler Mountain’s Quicksilver chairlift Dec. 23 had no new information this week, but are still determined to find what caused the grip on one chair to fail.
"There will be a cause," said David Perry, Whistler Mountain’s Director of Marketing. "We’re not anticipating that (a cause won’t be found)."
Perry said it’s premature to speculate how long the Quicksilver lift will be closed, but because there is not an immediate, obvious reason for the accident "it’s going to be a much more detailed investigation."
The grip on one chair slipped on a steep section of the line uphill from Coaches Corner at about 3 p.m. Dec. 23, when many of the day’s skiers were downloading. A switch indicated the chair, carrying 25-year-old Trevor MacDonald and two others, was properly gripped when it left the top terminal.
The chair slid down the line and collided with the chair in front of it. MacDonald’s chair then fell about 70 feet to the ground, killing the Vancouver man and injuring the other two occupants.
The second chair slid down the line and collided into a third chair. The two chairs then slid down the line and collided with a fourth chair. All three fell to the ground when they hit the sheave assembly on tower 21. A total of eleven people were injured.
Investigators have inspected the towers uphill from the accident and determined they were not a factor in the accident. An inspection of the grips on all four chairs showed there were no missing or broken parts.
Perry said the coroner is leading the investigation, which involves the RCMP, Whistler Mountain’s lift maintenance personnel, representatives from the aerial tramways branch of the Ministry of Transportation and representatives of the lift manufacturer, Lift Engineering Co. of Nevada. Engineers from the company were in Whistler for a day-and-a-half. They are now analyzing data.
Meanwhile, Perry says Whistler Mountain is adjusting to operations without the Whistler Creek access lift. Last winter, during a record day over the Christmas holidays, Whistler Mountain’s Express Gondola carried 6,700 people up the mountain from the village. This year the Express Gondola carried 9,000 people one day.
"There was one long lineup at the beginning of the day but once people got up the mountain they had good skiing and virtually no lineups," Perry said.
"There’s a lot of people in the valley and in the Lower Mainland with a lot of loyalty to Whistler Mountain, who’ve shown their support but been inconvenienced by the Creekside closing. We’d like to say ‘thank you’ to those people for their continued understanding and patience," Perry added.