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Bennington

Report details ski lift mishap

Investigator: Girl not properly seated

BENNINGTON — A final report about the chairlift incident at Crotched Mountain states that the Dec. 11 fall was due to a “misload,” and a subsequent interview with the lead investigator detailed the harrowing moments that left the mother and another skier holding onto the 6-year-old child’s hands as she dangled from the lift.

The incident happened at 4:05 p.m. when three people from Hollis were boarding Crotched Mountain’s high-speed “Rocket” chair lift. The mother and another skier were waiting to be seated on either side of the woman’s daughter. The skiers were not loaded properly and only the mother and the other skier were seated on the lift when it headed up the mountain, Chief Tramway Inspector W. Briggs Lockwood said in an interview Monday.

Lockwood could not provide comments from Crotched Mountain about what happened with the loading procedure. Crotched Mountain General Manager Pat Terry did not return multiple messages by press time seeking comment about the report or that day’s events. Lockwood released a final report of the event on Jan. 3.

“It’s speculated that [the mother and other skier] held on for as long as they could,” Lockwood said. While the young child was hanging from the lift, Lockwood said her head was level with the seat of the chairlift.

The mother jumped from the lift soon after her daughter fell, approximately 90 seconds after loading at a distance of 1,300 feet from the lift terminal, the report states. Because the lift travels at a speed of 1,000 feet per minute, the mother fell farther up the mountain, and away from her daughter. Both the mother and daughter fell with their skis still attached, Lockwood said.

The report also states that a third person from Hollis did not fall and was safely unloaded at the top of the lift to ski down and assist the fallen passengers. The six-year-old was complaining of serious abdominal pain so she may have suffered an internal injury, according to Bennington Police Chief Steve Campbell in an interview Dec. 12. She was transported to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center by DHART helicopter, according to Lockwood’s recent report. Campbell also said in December that the mother sustained a leg injury. The recent report states that the mother was transported to Monadnock Community Hospital, however, the previous report from Lockwood stated that the mother was also transported to Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Both the mother and daughter are recovering from their injuries, according to Lockwood’s previous report. He has not released the names of the skiers.

Lockwood said that there is a shared responsibility in this incident at Crotched Mountain. The report states that this fall is due to a “misload” and Lockwood said currently the mountain is not facing charges for the incident. “There’s a shared fault here,” Lockwood said.

When asked if people on the scene had yelled to the lift operator to stop the lift, Lockwood declined to comment. He did say that hypothetically, noise levels could have created a problem for someone attempting to communicate with the lift operators. His advice for preventing another fall was for chair lift operators to stay attentive and not be distracted, and for skiers to get the operators’ attention if there is a problem.

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

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