14 Hurt After Ski Lift Accident At Devil's Head Resort

Posted December 18, 2009 By: channel3000.com   ski liftMERRIMAC, Wis. — Fourteen people were hurt after a ski lift accident at the Devil’s Head resort near the Town of Merrimac on Thursday night.   The Sauk County Sheriff’s Department said that the state Department of Commerce has taken over an investigation into a malfunctioning chair lift at resort. A full chair lift allegedly stopped and began going backward at a high rate of speed on Thursday night at about 7 p.m., sending some riders jumping off their seats.   Officials with local hospitals said they treated a total of 14 people for injuries in connection with the incident, and two were kept overnight for observation, including one with an ankle fracture. They said that most of the victims were listed in fair condition upon their arrival to both St. Clare Hospital in Baraboo and Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital in Sauk City.   On Thursday night, Devil’s Head general manager Joe Vittengl said an investigation into what went wrong would begin Friday at daybreak.   “With light, we’ll be able to get into that chair lift and see anything that malfunctioned or see if there was ice or anything that caused a problem. And right now in the darkness, it’s more difficult to determine what would have occurred,” he said.   Meister at least three of the victims were seriously injured in the accident, but weren’t critically hurt. He said that seven apparently had minor injuries. He didn’t have details on the ages of the victims or the nature of their injuries.   Authorities said that they didn’t know exactly how many people were aboard when it started going backward.   Witnesses described the chaos and said some people on the chair lift jumped off.   “We were like 20 feet away from getting off the lift and the lift started going backward pretty fast,” said Amir Shadlu, a Madison resident who jumped off the lift. “We saw a lot of people jump from farther and they didn’t even take their boards off, so I don’t know how they made it, but we made it out okay.”   Lyndon resident Jason Lucht also said he jumped off the lift about 25 feet to the ground below.   “Everyone is yelling jump and I’m like, ‘Oh, we got to get off.’ So, we just jumped off and it was pretty scary, but we got off just fine,” said Lucht.   The popular resort was having a deal on lift tickets Thursday night when the lift failed.   “The opposite side of where you get on the lift was pretty much destroyed because when the chairs hang down, they would have been accelerated and being swung out like this and the whole roof on that side was gone,” said Matt Dederich, a skier from Madison who was stuck on the lift.   “We didn’t even get on the hill, we didn’t go down once,” said Nicole Bendell, of Madison.   There were 12 people still on the lift as of 8:45 p.m., nearly two hours after the initial incident, waiting to be evacuated. Meister said emergency responders finished evacuating the lift just after 9 p.m.   T.J. Versace, 28, of Madison, said he was about 12 feet away and heading toward the ski lift and preparing to get on when the accident happened.   “Something happened and it looked like it was going backwards. It was like a fire spark everywhere and all the seats are off the track and it’s going backwards and people are jumping, and everyone is like, ‘Just jump, jump, jump,’ and people are jumping off the chair,” Versace said.   Four EMS agencies responded to the scene.   “The whole parking lot is all lights everywhere (with) police and fire people. Parents are showing up and they want to see their kids,” Versace said. “When I was getting into my car there were parents pulling up and yelling at the staff, ‘Where is my kid? I want to see my kid.'”   Merrimac is about 20 miles northwest of Madison. 

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