WHISTLER BC, December 18, 2008 – The investigation into Tuesday’s Excalibur Gondola tower failure continued today at Whistler Blackcomb as the bottom part of tower 4 was removed from the site for inspection, and the flange that separated from the bottom part of the tower was sent to an independent metallurgical expert for examination.
Engineers are reviewing every component of the failed tower to determine how water entered the tower. At this point, there is still no conclusive evidence as to how this happened.
The flange that separated from the lower tower when an estimated 800 tonnes of pressure created by the build-up of ice forced the top part of the tower to separate, is also being examined by an independent metallurgical expert in Vancouver. The examination is expected to provide further clarity into the structural failure.
Whistler Blackcomb has also addressed questions surrounding a Safety Alert Bulletin dated December 31, 2006 issued by the manufacturer. The bulletin was entitled "Tower failure due to water intrusion" and recommended that resorts follow up on potential water accumulation in tower bases following a tower failure at a US resort in late 2006 resulting from “ice-jacking”.
Follow through on the manufacturer’s recommendations took place across all potentially affected towers on both Whistler and Blackcomb in accordance with the recommendations in the bulletin, and are now part of Whistler Blackcomb’s regular preventative maintenance program. “Our records show complete compliance with the manufacturer’s test protocol,” says Doug Forseth, Whistler Blackcomb’s senior vice president of operations. “All towers were tested and further testing is done annually.”
The recommended test protocol is now being reexamined in respect of towers containing concrete. The Excalibur Gondola has four towers containing concrete, including the failed tower 4.
“We are now working with the lift manufacturer and the BC Safety Authority to modify and improve the test protocol to address the situation of towers containing concrete,” continues Forseth.
Information about the Excalibur Gondola incident will continue to be available for guests and media from the homepage at http://www.whistlerblackcomb.com. The web site also includes further information about Whistler Blackcomb’s operating plan, open lifts, snow conditions and open terrain.