West Kelowna News
Speaking out on Crystal Mountain
We've updated this story with comments from Crystal Mountain's General Manager at the bottom of the article.
Lee Kiester had just skied down from the three man chairlift on Crystal Mountain on Saturday, when he saw a chair plummet to the ground.
Kiester tells Castanet he heard a humming mechanical noise as he waited for his son on top of a small hill.
"I turned to see where it was and caught an occupied chair plunging down to the ground. The rollers on chair two spun around from the loss of the cable, it was perplexing."
He quickly skied over to the fallen chair, where he discovered two people -- a man and a woman -- who were wearing ski patrol vests and they were trapped.
"There was already someone from staff there lifting the chair off the occupants legs," he says.
"The man was in a lot of pain and flopped himself forward and just laid there. He said his right leg was in a lot of pain. The woman was able to swing her legs forward and we set down the chair. She slid down to a more prone position and said her left side, ribs, were hurting and her left arm."
Kiester claims both the man and the woman could move their fingers and toes, and did not appear to have any spinal injuries.
However, Kiester says another occupied chair further up the lift was also on the ground, and it too had several people around it.
"The response time from (the staff at) Crystal mountain was amazingly fast, professional and apparently well trained."
Another Castanet reader, Andrew Leckie, who calls himself an avid snowboarder, says he spent many years at Crystal Mountain, but will never go back.
“I went there every year for a very long time and this would happen every time you were on that mountain. Whether it was the old chair breaking down or the new one, and they were forcing it to keep going and never upgraded," he says.
He recounts one such incident on the Scenic Ridge chairlift (not the one that broke), when winds whipped him parallel to the ground.
“It stalled right away, like halfway up (the mountain). It was during a huge windstorm too," says Leckie.
"The chairs were literally swinging so far side-to-side that it was like we were banking on a rollercoaster – completely sideways. We were looking at the cable."
“I just felt it was completely irresponsible of them at the time. I never went back there again. My dad sent me the (Castanet) link today and it could have happened at any time."
Crystal Mountain general manager Mike Morin says the chairlift that came apart Saturday has been in operation since the 1960s. According to Morin the lift only had to be evacuated one other time, when the power failed, and everybody was able to get down without incident. He says they have strict safety measures they follow and that the lifts are always in top mechanical shape.
There is no evidence at this time that high winds contributed to the accident. The mountain has since been closed, pending an investigation by the BC Safety Authority.
Morin says they will know later in the week if the mountain will be open next weekend, after safety inspectors finish their investigation.
Send videos and photos of the incident to [email protected]
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