Thursday, January 3, 2008

At 12:50 pm on January 3, a ski chairlift ride cost a German skier’s life and another German woman was left with serious injuries after the lift cable derailed from the mast sheaves in a windstorm. The derailed chairlift is the two-seater Fallboden lift at Kleine Scheidegg, next to the Jungfrau mountain in Switzerland.

Two more Australian tourists were lightly injured. About 20 further people had to be evacuated from the stopped chairlift. Wind velocity peaking at 90km/h prevented a helicopter from rescuing the trapped passengers, complicating the rescue.

According to, the lift was manufactured by Garaventa AG, a major Swiss ski lift company, now a part of an international group Doppelmayr/Garaventa. When contacted no one was available for comment.

Shortly before the accident, a wind alarm was activated few times by a 60km/h wind. The operator decided to close the lift and waited for the lift to unload all passengers; at the moment of the catastrophe the bottom station of the lift was already closed, but 75 passengers were still on the lift.

According to the Swiss law, every chair lift must be designed to withstand a lateral wind load of 250 newtons (approx. 25kg) per square meter. However there is no law limit at which wind speed or lateral loads the chair lifts have to be stopped. This safety aspect is left to the responsibility of the operator. The safety of the lift was checked by the Swiss Federal Office of Transport in January 2006. This chairlift accident is said to be the worst in Switzerland for the last 8 years.