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Woman, girl, 6, fall from ski lift

Crotched: safety bar was not pulled down

BENNINGTON — Crotched Mountain Ski and Ride’s general manager said Monday that the mother and daughter who fell from a ski lift Wednesday did not have the safety bar engaged when they dropped an estimated 30 feet.

Crotched Mountain officials also said the mother lives in Hollis and that her daughter is 6 years old. Their names have not been released, though state officials responsible for the investigation said both are recovering from their injuries and listed in stable condition. It is unclear whether either the mother or daughter have been released from the hospital.

Rescue crews were called to Crotched Mountain late Wednesday afternoon after they fell from the “Rocket” high-speed lift. The daughter was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, while her mother was transported to the same facility by ambulance. Initial reports indicated she was taken to Monadnock Community Hospital, but investigators said Monday that the woman was instead brought to Lebanon so she could be with her daughter. According to Bennington Fire Chief Mike Roina, the helicopter can only take one person at a time, and this may be the reason the mother did not initially leave the mountain at the same time as her daughter.

Crotched Mountain General Manager Pat Terry said Monday that it appears the woman did not pull down the safety bar attached to each chair after boarding the lift with her daughter. Since riders board the lift as it is moving, it is the responsibility — not a requirement — of the rider to pull down the safety bar, he said. For first-time skiers, Terry said Crotched recommends they take a lesson to prepare them for the slopes and lifts, but that, too, is not a requirement. However, Terry said the mother and daughter were not first-time skiers, and had skied there before.

Terry said the two had traveled a couple hundred yards up the ski lift when they fell between towers five and six onto the trail named Pluto’s Plunge. Initial reports varied on the distance of the fall, ranging between 25 and 50 feet. In a press release issued by the State Fire Marshal’s Office on Monday, Chief Tramway Safety Inspector W. Briggs Lockwood said mother and daughter fell 30 feet near the halfway point of the lift ride up to the summit.

An initial investigation of the lift Wednesday around 4:30 p.m. indicated that the cause of the accident was not due to mechanical failure. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating what led to the fall.

Bennington Chief of Police Steve Campbell said Thursday the mother sustained a leg injury, and that the daughter was complaining of serious abdominal pain, “so probably internal injuries,” Campbell said.

“I heard that the girl probably did fall first and the mom apparently tried to stop her,” Campbell said.

By press time Monday, Terry said Crotched has not yet received a written statement from the mother and therefore he did not want to comment on the possibility that she may have jumped after her daughter or, instead, fell from the lift as well.

Campbell said the call for emergency response came in to the Bennington police at 4 p.m., saying two people had fallen from a ski lift. Campbell said he and Roina were at the mountain minutes after the call came in and were the first people on the scene besides the mountain’s ski patrol. He said that Roina went up to Pluto’s Plunge and helped bring them down from the slope safely. While the victims were being examined by the ambulance crews, Campbell said Francestown police and firefighters set up a landing zone for a helicopter in the big parking lot by the entrance to airlift the young girl to Dartmouth.

Campbell said police know of several eye witnesses but have been unable to speak with them as yet.

Several agencies responded to the mountain Wednesday, including Antrim ambulance and fire, Peterborough ambulance, Francestown fire and police and Bennington fire and police.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext.232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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