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Ski Granby Ranch closes lift that caused fatal accident for 'testing,' says modification to blame

Posted at 12:41 PM, Jan 20, 2017

SKI GRANBY RANCH, Colo. – Ski Granby Ranch announced Friday the Quick Draw Express chairlift, which killed a Texas woman last month when it malfunctioned, would be closed Friday and Saturday while it is tested.

Kelly Huber, 40, of San Antonio died Dec. 29 when she was thrown from the lift along with her two children, who both survived.

The lift was closed for more than a week as state regulators investigated what caused the accident. On Jan. 9, the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board released a report saying that a “rare dynamic event” occurred within the lift’s primary electrical drive and control system.

The board said weather, environmental factors, and human error on Huber’s behalf were not factors in the accident.

Ski Granby Ranch reopened the lift after the report, but could only operate it using its backup diesel engine and not the electrical system.

Resort operators were also asked to disconnect the electrical drive entirely, to run the lift at a slower pace and to increase the number of visual and mechanical inspections on the lift.

The safety board said in its report it reserves the right to slow or shut down the lift, and it also left room for the continuing investigation to grow. 

Friday morning, Ski Granby Ranch posted a message on Instagram saying the lift would be closed while it is tested.

In a news release the ski resort sent out later Friday, the resort said it was hoping to reopen the lift under diesel power "as soon as possible" and that it had scheduled the installation of a new electric drive in the future.

It added that the "current tests are being done out of an abundance of caution."

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies said in a statement sent late Friday that the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board reached the decision to not reopen the lift until it is "deemed safe for public operation as set forth in a Non-Disciplinary Operation Agreement."

The ski area also said that an independent contractor was hired to make modifications to the lift before this current ski season, and that "the issue that likely caused the incident was the independent contractor's modification to the lift's electrical drive/control system."

The contractor was not affiliated with the original lift manufacturer, and the resort said it has since "retained the original manufacturer of the lift to return the Quick Draw Express Lift to safe operating condition [sic] under electrical power."

It said the rest of the ski area remained open, that it was offering discounted tickets and that it would re-open the lift as soon as possible following the completion of testing.

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