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Investigation into Whistler accident
Wednesday December 17, 2008 - Email this article to a friend

First findings after a pylon of the Excalibur Gondola collapsed and 53 people were rescued.

Several were taken to hospital.

It's a severe embarrassment for the resort in the run up to the Winter Olympics.

People were left stranded for up to 3 hours before they were winched to safety after the number 4 pylon collapsed.  Some of the gondolas plunged up to 10 metres but no-one was seriously hurt.

Some cabins narrowly missed trees and buildings, but the only injuries were from shock and minor back injuries.

Resort officials and the safety authority say the collapse was caused by "ice-jacking," resulting from water seeping between the two steel sections of the lift tower.

As the water froze, the expanding ice lifted the upper section, severing the connection between the sections and causing the upper portion to fall.

While Tuesday's accident involved a tower with two separate sections, investigators say water seepage and expanding ice can be a problem on any hollow steel lift tower.

All lifts in British Columbia, Canada, are now being inspected for the same problem.

A full investigation by Whistler Blackcomb and the BC Safety Authority is currently underway to determine the exact cause of the failure and to see if any changes to safety regulations need to be made.

The accident follows the opening of the Peak2Peak Gondola last week and is not the ideal preparations for the resort in the run up to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

For a news video of the accident look here.

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