“Ice jacking” is being blamed for the collapse of a gondola tower on Blackcomb Tuesday afternoon.
Officials believe water penetrated the seal between two sections of Tower 4 on the Excalibur lift. The water then froze and expanded, causing the tower to break in two.
A news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. this morning to provide further updates.
At approximately 2:30 Tuesday afternoon the top section of Tower 4 on the Excalibur Gondola sheared off from the lower section, causing the gondola cable to sag approximately 30 feet. None of the gondola cabins left the cable, however two cabins hit the ground.
Tower 4 is just a few hundred metres from the village terminus of the two-stage lift that runs from the village to half way up Blackcomb.
By 5:51 p.m. all 53 guests trapped on the gondolas were evacuated. Twelve people were treated at the Whistler Health Care centre. All walked out of the health care centre on their own accord later that evening.
Graeme Bell believes he is just lucky to walk away after the gondola he was travelling in plunged to the ground.
“I was downloading on Excalibur Gondola at the end of the day and I just heard a big metal bending noise and all of a sudden our cabin was plummeting to the ground,” he said outside the Whistler Health Care Centre where he had been treated for his injuries.
“Our cabin bounced off the ground, our window popped out upon impact, the bench collapsed, my finger got broken and my head was banged.
“It was bouncing up and down for a couple of seconds and then it came to a stop and we jumped out the window that had popped out as we were only about three feet off the ground at that point.
“It happened pretty fast and when it was over we gathered ourselves and decided to get out of the cabin, and then we started swearing.”
Bell, 26, who has lived in Whistler for six years teaching skiing, working for Outdoor Adventures and as a cook at a local restaurant, got a level one concussion in the incident as well as a broken finger.
“It could have been worse,” he said adding that a friend he was riding with was still being x-rayed as he spoke.
“We were very lucky to be able to walk away from that. Our cabin dropped 40 feet and bounced off the ground, pretty crazy.