On March 21, 2015, the King Pine Quad chair lift at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine experienced a “rollback”. The chair suddenly stopped and then quickly propelled backwards terrifying the passengers. A number of passengers removed their skis and jumped off the chair to the ground in order to prevent injuring themselves near the bottom of the tower. The crew managed to stop the lift after it rolled back approximately 9 chairs (approximately 450 feet). Once the lift was stopped, skiers sat for up to 2 hours while ski patrolman lowered the riders to the ground with a harness. 7 people were injured of which 4 of them were taken to the hospital. None of the injuries were critical.
Scary as it was, only three people were hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries, according to a statement from the resort. The lift was carrying about 230 riders. Initially, Sugarloaf didn’t know about the cause of the accident and was working with the Tramway Board to do a thorough investigation. As part of its regular maintenance, Sugarloaf inspected the lift in the morning and did not find anything unusual. Sugarloaf does regular weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance and testing and has never had this kind of issue in its 60 year existence. There was speculation that the high wind speeds that day could have contributed to the problem.
On March 25, 2015, Sugarloaf released a statement of their findings. Various person personnel from Sugarloaf along with engineers from Boyne Resorts (Sugarloaf's parent company), determined that a fracture of the main drive shaft of the lift's secondary gearbox initiated the rollback, and that the lift's bullwheel brake engaged and operated properly. Investigators also identified an apparent manufacturer design issue in one of the lift's components as contributory to the accident. The fracture of the shaft resulted in the loss of both the primary service brake and the anti-reverse brake, leaving two additional braking systems intended to prevent a rollback. Sugarloaf has made some modifications to the lift to prevent loss of the initial braking systems under this kind of scenario.