Investigation begins into Lecht chairlift accident

THE Lecht ski centre was stormbound today as a joint Police and HSE investigation was launched into the chairlift derailment which left five children and an adult injured.

• Two of five children hospitalised have now been discharged

• Investigations expected to look into causes of accident

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• Visitors praised Lecht staff for their handling of the situation

Some are understood to have suffered leg and possible spinal injuries when they fell up to 20ft when the chairlift at the Aberdeenshire winter sports resort came off its rails yesterday afternoon. Their injuries are not believed to be life threatening.

Thirty other skiers were left dangling on their chairs for up to 80 minutes before being lowered to safety by the emergency services.

One theory being investigated is that one of the chairs became caught on a pylon which carries the overhead wire, causing two other chairs to collide with it.

The injured adult and four of the children were being treated at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. The fifth child is understood to have been taken to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

Two of the five children have now been discharged from hospital.

A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said today: “Two children, who were brought to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary’s Emergency Department yesterday, have now been discharged from the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital. Of the remaining patients, one adult and two other children are in a satisfactory condition.”

The Lecht ski centre had planned to open to skiers and snowboarders today, despite the accident. But the centre announced this morning: “The centre is now stormbound and the gates are now closed in both directions. The centre will be open tomorrow, weather permitting.”

The centre also posted a message on its Facebook page, expressing their regret about the accident. The centre said: “ We are extremely upset that these people have been injured but as yet we don’t know the cause of the problem with the chair. The first response was to look after the injured. The rest of the skiers were then taken off the chairlift by the two Lecht teams within around one hour and 20 minutes.

“A major incident was called by the company to alert all the other emergency agents who reacted quickly.”

The statement adds: “The chair will be out of action for a while but the rest of the lifts will be working as normal.”

A centre spokeswoman said: “We were open earlier this morning but we are closed now because the access roads are blocked. There is no suggestion yet as to what caused the accident until we get the Health and Safety here. The centre will be carrying out an investigation as well.”

She added: “The chair lift will remain out of action until the cause of the accident has been established.”

Two investigators from the Government’s Health and Safety Executive reached the ski centre this morning to begin their detailed investigation before the access routes from both the Aberdeenshire and Moray sides were both closed by heavy snowfalls in the area.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said: “We are investigating alongside Grampian Police and the Police are in the lead in the investigation at present.”

Messages of support for the ski resort’s handling of the emergency were also posted on the centre’s website.

Karen Manning stated: “We were there today - well handled, no panic, very calm and organised. Well done. Prayers to those injured and thanks to the emergency responders.”

Brian Thain posted: “My wife and I were there today. Very well handled by the Lecht team and emergency services. Good job guys.. Thoughts to all the injured parties, speedy recovery.”

Julie Muilliner wrote: “You guys were amazing, such a feeling of helplessness being there, but you were organised, safe and informative. I can’t rate you highly enough.”

But one skier, Jan Duperre wrote: “It strikes me that no tows or lifts should be running until they have all been inspected by a suitably qualified engineer and maintenance required carried out as a precaution. I certainly won’t be visiting the centre again until we have been assured that this has happened.”