Door-lock examined after child falls from Creekside gondola 

A faulty door-lock may lie behind the 35-foot fall of a five-year-old skier from a Creekside gondola cabin last weekend.

"There was a malfunction of the door latching mechanism," said Doug Forseth, senior vice president operations for Whistler Blackcomb.

"We are still inspecting the cabins on an hourly basis and will continue to do that until we are all comfortable and convinced that we know what happened and we’ve checked to make sure it won’t happen again.

"We are obviously very concerned about the little girl and the family and we are doing everything we can to support them and we will continue to make sure that we do everything we can to ensure a safe operation."

Bailey Thomson, of Pemberton, sustained several serious injuries including a fractured right femur, a broken left clavicle, a severely lacerated liver and other internal injuries in the fall.

She had to have surgery on her leg, and it is not yet clear whether there will be any lasting effects from the injuries.

She was moved out of Vancouver Children’s Hospital intensive care on Monday.

Parents Dave and Camilla, who work in the hospitality business in Whistler, would not comment on the accident and referred all calls to their lawyer.

"I can only tell you that the family wants privacy," said lawyer Jean-Marc Hebert.

"The injuries as I understand it are not life-threatening but they are very serious.

"At present it is anticipated that she will be discharged home but whether that occurs within the next few days or the next few weeks is not clear."

Hebert believes there was an attempt to prevent Thomson’s fall from the lift but it failed.

The accident happened Saturday as Thomson was downloading with her ski instructor and two other ski school students for lunch.

"I can tell you that Bailey is quite a good little skier and she had been known to ski the odd black diamond herself. She is a beautiful young girl and very vivacious and quite the outdoors type.

"I have been made to understand that this is quite emotionally difficult for her, but she is a fighter.

"The family is hoping for the very best and hopefully with time everything will come to normal, so to speak."

.Forseth said the instructor did everything right including sitting closest to the side which the gondola doors slides open from.

"I think (the ski instructor’s) position and her care of the children was excellent," said Forseth.

"This was a unique and strange case."

The cabin with the faulty lock mechanism, located in the ceiling, has been removed from operation. Every cabin was checked by mountain engineers immediately following the accident and only put back in service if all was well.

No other problems were found with the cabins. Whistler Blackcomb has contacted the manufacturer of the gondola, Leitner-Poma, and met Monday with inspectors for the safety engineering division of the Ministry of Community, Aboriginal and Women’s services which overseas ski lift safety for the province.

Whistler-Blackcomb has also hired an independent engineer to inspect the cabin.

The Creekside gondola carries at least 4,000 people a day for 160 days of the year. It has been in service for seven years and was last inspected by the government in September. It is routinely inspected by Whistler-Blackcomb staff.

The $6.2 million Creekside gondola was put into operation in 1996 replacing the Quicksilver Chairlift after an accident in December 1995 in which two people died and eight others were injured.


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