Duluth, MN, Aug. 15--In the wake of the gondola accident last week, Lutsen Mountains officials have begun an intensive investigation to determine the cause of the crash. Six people were injured and two remain hospitalized with serious injuries.
The gondola that slid backward 100 feet, collided with another car, and then fell 15 feet to the ground, had been completely rebuilt this summer. The car, along with the entire gondola, had withstood intensive safety testing, including a 2,000-pound test of force just one week prior to the accident.
The Cook County Sheriff's Department and an insurance company investigating the incident have ruled out negligence on the part of Lutsen Mountains.
Jim Vick, spokesperson for the resort, said the resort has an outstanding safety record. Lutsen has run its chair lifts without incident for over 50 years, and the gondola, opened in 1989, had launched 2 million cars without a problem until the recent accident.
"It shocks you; the system is set up for this not to happen," said Vick. He added that preliminary findings indicate that the grip on the cabin--a piece of metal that holds the top of the cat to the cable--somehow came loose, causing the car to slide down the cable.
Lutsen expects the investigation to be completed within the week and repairs will be made immediately. Resort officials expect to re-open the gondola within a couple of weeks.
"We'll be doing multiple safety checks before we re-open the lift," promised Vick. This summer's accident will have no effect on the upcoming ski season. Lutsen officials are confident that the gondola will be set to go long before the snow flies.