Full list of ski-lift accidents

18 марта 2018

For this article I was hoping to find a ready made list of lift accidents. There are a few short and incomplete lists around the place but they missed out a lot and they were not well referenced, so to get the fullest and most accurate list we had to make our own. For this list, and this is a weird distinction to have to make, we limited it to accidents with at least one fatality or if there were no fatalities to at least ten injuries…

9 Apr 1947: Monte Serrate, Santos, São Paulo, Brazil (funicular): 1 dead, 6 injured [scenic]
At 1.45 in the afternoon, twenty years after it was constructed the cable snapped on the Monte Serrate funicular that was carrying 30 people at the time killing one woman and injuring 6 other people. There are references on the internet to a crash killing 31 people on the 29 August 1956 but I can’t find evidence to support this.

26 Jul 1956: Rowe Mountain, New Hampshire,  USA (chairlift): 1 dead, 7 injured [ski resort]
A In what was probably the first fatal chairlift accident one man dies and seven people were injured when the steel cable on a chair-lift up Rowe Mountain snapped while carrying 30 people.

10 Aug 1957: Cogne, Val d'Aosta, Italy (aerial lift): 1 dead 11 injured [ski resort]
A cable car crashes while transporting workers.

15 Aug 1960: Monte Faito, near Naples, Italy (aerial lift): 2 dead [scenic]
The Funiva del Faito connects the railway station at Castellammare di Stabia with Monte Faito. In 1960 the cable detached and one of the cabins crashed onto the railway tracks below killing two.

29 Aug 1961: Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc, France (aerial lift): 6 dead [ski resort]
The Vallee Blanche Aerial Tramway that connects Courmayeur (Italy) with Chamonix (France) was hit by a French air force F-84F fighter jet. The cable severed and three cabins fell 500ft onto the glacier below killing the six passengers. Another 81 passengers were trapped with the last people being rescued after 20 hours. The aircraft was able to land safely and the pilot Bernard Ziegler went on to become an air force test pilot and later a senior vice president at Airbus. 

5 Sep 1965: Lincoln, Nebraska, USA (aerial lift): 2 dead, 48 injured [scenic]
Two people were killed and at least 48 injured when two steel towers supporting the “Sky Lift” gondola ride collapsed into a crowd during the Nebraska State Fair.

25 Dec 1965: Puy de Sancy, France (aerial lift): 7 dead, 10 injured [ski resort]
On Christmas day 1965 power failure and strong winds caused the floor of a gondola to tear off and seventeen skiers fell through the void. One boy, Jean-Pierre Audy aged 13, survived when his shoe was caught in a pile of skis leaving him dangling in the air. 

9 Jul 1966: Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc, France (aerial lift): 2 dead, 16 injured [ski resort]
A lightening strike causes a pylon to break despite the structure being checked that morning. Three gondolas detach and fall onto the glacier below killing two, injuring 16 and trapping a further 80 people.

15 Jun 1968: Raton Pass, New Mexico, USA (chairlift): 1 dead, 7 injured [scenic]
A large group of schoolchildren turned up at the chairlift and the attendant loaded every chair. The chairlift became overloaded and started roll back. In the panic a shoe was used as a improvised brake, the cable wrapped up and brought the ride to an immediate stop, shaking off some of the passengers.

8 Dec 1970: Merano, Italy (aerial lift): 5 dead [ski resort]
* Unable to find much supporting evidence of this event. Different versions put the accident on either the 6thor the 8th of December. The Guardian places the accident on the 8th.

1 Aug 1971: Alagna Valsesia,  Italy (aerial lift): 4 dead [ski resort]
A mid-air collision between two gondolas of the Funivia di Belvedere after one cabin came loose and slid down the rope crashing into the next one.

12 Jul 1972: Bettmeralp,  Switzerland (aerial lift): 12 dead, 2 injured [ski resort]
The Bettmeralp aerial tramway was a single cab that could take 120 people at a time up a vertical height of 1,000m. On the day of the accident the cabin was returning to the valley floor when the tow rope snapped, the cabin accelerated down the cable and smashed into the concrete wall of the based station. Of the 14 passengers 12 died and 2 were seriously injured.

26 Oct 1972: Les Deux Alps, France (aerial lift): 9 dead [ski resort]
During the testing of the aerial tramways two cabs collided killing nine people.
* Unable to find much supporting evidence of this event other than listing in Wikipedia. 

1 Jan 1973: Unknown Resort,  Idaho, USA (chairlift): 17 injured [ski resort]
Very little information in this accident, and it’s made the list because of some good quotes from ski lift inspector Howard Anderson who clearly explains the cause of the problems are the passengers, “Most lifts are built well, maintained well and are basically structurally sound. What makes them unsafe is people.” Then he blames the snow “Snow is the worst enemy of the chairlift.” Before he finally throws the blame on gravity, “Very simply put, gravity is the enemy of the chairlift.” Chairlifts have a lot of enemies.

9 Jul 1974: Ulriken,  Norway (aerial lift): 4 dead [scenic]
A gondola approaching the top station of the Ulriksbanen slid down the cable before dropping off  and falling straight down the mountain killing four. 

9 Mar 1976: Cavalese,  Italy (aerial lift): 42 dead, 1 injured [ski resort]
Known as ‘The Cavalese Cable Car Disaster’, this was the single worst aerial lift accident. The steel cable broke as the car was descending from Cermis in the ski resort of Cavalese. The cabin fell 200 meters down the mountain and during the fall the three ton overhead carriage assembly crushed the car. Of the 43 passengers the only survivor was a 14 year old girl called Alessandra Piovesan.

26 Mar 1976: Vail, Colorado, USA (aerial lift): 4 dead, 5 injured [ski resort]
Two gondolas derailed and fell from an aerial ski lift as a result of a fayed cable. The fault was found to be caused by a pattern of negligence in the maintenance of the lifts at the resort.

20 Jan 1977: Jiminy Peak, New England, USA (chairlift): 11 injured [ski resort]
11 skiers were hospitalized and several dozen had to be rescued after the brakes failed on a chairlift causing it to rollback at high speeds.

15 Apr 1978: Squaw Valley,  California, USA (aerial lift): 4 dead, 32 injured [ski resort]
At 3.45pm during blizzard conditions the cable of the Squaw Valley Aerial Tramway came off its saddle on Tower 2. A car containing 44 passengers was derailed and fell 75 feet at which point the lose cable struck the cabin and sheared through the roof and wall pinning 12 people against the floor and killing three instantly. There’s a very good article on the accident including interviews with the people involve here. 

5 Apr 1981: Heavenly, California, USA (chairlift): 17 injured [ski resort]
A number of passengers where thrown off the lift and others crashed into the support towers after the cable dropped 10 feet. The accident was believed to be caused by some of the passengers swinging the chairs.

29 Jan 1983: Sentosa,  Singapore (aerial lift): 7 dead, 1 injured [scenic]
During the Singapore Cable Car Disaster two cabins fell 55 meters into the sea after the ropeway was struck by the derrick of the oil drilling ship Eniwetok. 13 other people were trapped and had to be rescued by helicopter.

13 Feb 1983: Champoluc, Val d'Aosta, Italy (aerial lift): 11 dead [ski resort]
One cabin came lose and slide down the rope the impacts two others. Shortly after the initial accident the lift is restarted which resulted in three cabins falling from the cable killing 11 passengers.

4 Feb 1984: Big Powderhorn,  Michigan, USA (chairlift): 1 dead, 8 injured [ski resort]
A lift operator was killed when he got entangled in the cable of a chairlift when he tried to fix the mechanism without first checking that the lift was turned off. 8 passengers were injured when they were thrown of the chairs.

14 Dec 1985: Keystone, Colarado, USA (chairlift): 2 dead, 48 injured [ski resort]
A faulty weld breaks on the main pulley of the Teller chairlift built by the now infamous Lift Engineering (Yan) company. 50 people were thrown from the lift.

1 Mar 1987: Luz-Ardiden, Huates-Pyrénées,  France (chairlift): 6 dead, 87 injured [ski resort]
6 deaths and 87 injuries (41 of which were serious) were caused when the anchor pylon of the chairlift broke, throwing 50 chairs to the ground. 

13 Jan 1989: Alpe d’Huez, France (aerial lift): 8 dead [ski resort]
A cabin detached from the cable during testing of the newly constructed Vaujany lift killing eight technicians. Three executives of the Pomagalski company that built the lift were found guilty of manslaughter and given suspended sentences and fines.

23 Dec 1989: Maple Mountain, Michingan,  USA (chairlift): 1 dead [ski resort]
A 6-year-old boy was strangled in a ski-lift mechanism after his clothing got caught in the machinery. 

1 Jun 1990: Tbilisi,  Georgia (aerial lift): 21 dead [scenic]
The hauling rope broke causing a cabin to slide at high speeds down the cable, ramming a parallel cabin on its way before hitting a pylon and breaking in half. Passengers fell from the cabin onto the buildings and streets below. The second cabin then slid down the cables and was destroyed when it crashed into the base station wall. The gondolas were overcrowded at the time of the accident and a short time before larger gondolas had been installed without any adjustments to the cables and structure. I cannot find details of the number of people who were injured.

24 Nov 1991: Pico Espejo, Mérida, Venezuala (aerial lift): 2 dead [scenic]
The accident on the highest cable car in the world happened when the cable broke on the last pylon of the forth section. One cabin fell from the lift killing the two passengers. 5 people were previously killed during the construction of the cable car back in 1958

29 Jan 1992: Nassfeld,  Austria (chairlift): 4 dead, 9 injured [ski resort]
The cable jumped of the guide wheels and the resulting ricochet threw the passengers from the lift.

4 Apr 1993: Sierra Ski Ranch, California,  USA (chairlift): 1 dead, 1 injured [ski resort]
A 9-year-old boy was killed and a 14-year old injured when they were thrown off the Slingshot chairlift when the chair in front of them suddenly stopped and their chair ran into it. 

28 Aug 1993: Monte Solaro, Anacapri,  Italy (chairlift): 1 dead, 10 injured [scenic]
A forest fire started under the scenic chairlift in the Italian island of Capri. Some passengers jumped to avoid the smoke and flames and 1 died as a result. The last passengers were rescued from the stricken chairlift 40 hours later. 

23 Dec 1995: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada (chairlift): 2 dead, 10 injured [ski resort]
Four chairs detached and fell from the cable in another incident involving a lift built by the Lift Engineering (Yan) company. The cause was found to be poorly designed grips that hold the chair to the cable. The grips had failed as the result of a sudden emergency stop. 

12 Oct 1996: Quebec,  Canada (funicular): 1 dead, 15 injured [scenic]
The Funiculaire du Vieux Quebec or Old Quebec Funicular crashed into its base station with 16 tourists aboard when its cable broke and brakes failed.

6 Dec 1996: Snow Valley,  Ontario, Canada (chairlift): 1 dead, 1 injured [ski resort]
A ski instructor was killed when the chair he was riding crashed into a 10-metre-high lift tower after derailing from the lift's pulleys. 

14 Dec 1996: Riederalp,  Switzerland (aerial lift): 1 dead, 18 injured [ski resort]
A broken axle in the base station of the Moosfluh lift caused three gondolas to hit the ground. 

3 Feb 1998: Cavalese, Italy (aerial lift): 20 dead [ski resort]
The second Cavalese Cable Car Disaster occurred when a US Marine Corps Prowler jet struck and severed the cable of the aerial lift. 20 people in the cabin of the descending from Cermis fell over 80 meters to their deaths. The jet which was damaged but managed to land safely was apparently trying to fly under the cables. The pilot Captain Richard J Ashby and his navigator Captain Joseph Schweitzer were put on trial for involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide but were found not guilty because of a lack of definitive evidence. Immediately after landing they had removed and destroyed the video recording of the flight and for this they were found guilty of obstruction of justice, they were dismissed from the Marines and Captain Ashby served four and a half months in jail. The crash is known in Italy as the Strage del Cermis (Massacre of Cermis).

1 Jul 1999: Saint-Etienne en Devoluy, France (aerial lift): 20 dead [ski resort]
20 workers died when the gondola detached from cable and the struck the ground. The lift was used to supply the Bure observatory and was not open to the public.

26 Dec 1999: Crans Montana, Switzerland (aerial lift): 1 dead, 4 injured [ski resort]
During a fierce storm with winds hitting 95 mph an uprooted tree crashed into the cable of a ski lift causing a gondola with 5 people in to fall.

6 Jul 2000: Oberstdorf,  Germany (aerial lift): 32 injured [ski resort]
The two cabins of the cable car were still in the top and bottom stations when and electronic failure caused the system to break heavily slamming the cabins into the concrete walls.  

11 Nov 2000: Kaprun, Austria (funicular): 155 dead [ski resort]
A fire on the ascending train of the Gletscherbahn 2 funicular lead to the deaths of 155 people. The fire started at in an electric heater in the conductor’s cabin at rear of the train and it melted through the braking system which caused the train to come to a halt. The doors on the train failed to open leaving passengers trying to smash the break-resistant acrylic glass windows to escape. 12 passengers at the rear of the train managed to break out and made their way downwards past the fire to escape. Despite the conductor managing to unlock the doors and some of the passengers being able to start making their way up the tunnel all the other people on board as well as the conductor and one passenger on the descending train died of smoke inhalation as the poisonous smoke travelled up the tunnel. The funicular was sealed off after the accident and it was replaced by an aerial lift.

4 Jan 2001: Powder Ridge, Minnesota,  USA (chairlift): 1 dead [ski resort]
A 14-year-old girl died of asphyxiation when se tried to jump off a chairlift while in transit. The girl was snowboarding at Powder ridge with a friend when they decided to make the jump. Her helmet got caught between the set and the safety bar and she was strangled by the helmet strap.

1 Feb 2001: Angels Flight, San Francisco, USA (funicular): 1 dead, 7 injured [scenic]
One of the carriages, nearing the upper station, reversed direction and accelerated downhill to crash into the other carriage. The Lift Engineering (Yan) company was largely responsible for the poor design and construction that resulted in the crash and the founder of the company Yan Kunczynski fled to La Paz in Mexico to avoid prosecution.

3 Jan 2003: Arthurs Seat, Melbourne, Australia (chairlift): 18 injured [scenic]
A pylon collapsed injuring 18 people and leaving 65 stuck on the lift. The accident was the first of three failures that happened in a three year period. The owners were prosecuted and the chairlift is currently closed.

19 Oct 2003: Darjeeling,  India (aerial lift): 4 dead, 11 injured [scenic]
Three carriages of the Darjeeling Rungeet Valley Ropeway came off the cables and fell 100 feet into the field below.

2 Apr 2004: Yerevan,  Armenia (funicular): 3 dead, 6 injured [scenic]
On its way to Nor Nork from downtown Yerevan one of the trains derailed. 

27 Jul 2004: Abisko National Park, Sweden (chairlift): 1 dead, 3 injured [ski resort]
A chair came lose and slid down the cable to hit the following one.

5 Sep 2005: Sölden, Austria (aerial lift): 9 dead, 10 injured [ski resort]
A helicopter carrying materials to a mountaintop construction site accidently dropped a 750 kg concrete block onto the lift, knocking one gondola off and causing the others to swing so violently that their passengers were thrown out.

24 May 2007: Zillertal, Mayrhofen,  Austria (aerial lift): 1 dead, 2 injured [ski resort]
During testing before the summer season a gondola from the Penkenbahn lift came lose and fell 40 meters with three workers inside.

28 Nov 2007: Heavenly, California, USA (chairlift): 1 dead [ski resort]
A 19-year-old snowboarder fell from the Dipper Express Chairlift when he leant forward because of leg cramp. The safety bar was not down on his chair.

2 Mar 2008: Chamonix,  France (aerial lift): 1 dead [ski resort]
A man fell out of a gondola after he leaned on and broke the plexiglass window. The man and his three who were with him on the lift had been drinking. 

3 Jan 2008: Grindelwald, Switzerland (chairlift): 1 dead, 3 injured [ski resort]
During 90 kph winds, the lift cable jumped of a guide wheel causing several chairs to fall. 

16 Dec 2008: Blackcomb,  British Columbia, Canada (aerial lift): 10 injured [ski resort]
Ten people at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort were injured and others left stranded after a tower supporting the Excalibur gondola lift collapsed.

2 Mar 2009: Sierra Nevada National Park, Spain (chairlift): 17 injured [ski resort]
A cable slipped off the runners dropping a number of chairs to the ground.  

1 Sep 2009: Heavenly, California, USA (chairlift): 1 dead, 1 injured [ski resort]
One of the guide ropes from the nearby Heavenly Flyer zip line caught on the chairlift cable upending a chair with a honeymooning couple on it. The woman was caught in the wire and was able to hold on but the man fell to his death.

17 Dec 2009: Devil’s Head, Wisconsin, USA (chairlift): 14 injured [ski resort]
A massive failure of the lift’s gearbox resulted in the lift brake failing and the weight of the people on the ascending chairs caused the lift to suffer a rollback. The passengers were injured when they were thrown or sometimes chose to jump from the accelerating lift. If you want to know what a roll back looks like here is a video of a test. There is a good article on the accident with a very interesting comments section here.