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Lift Crushes Girl to Death

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(c) 2004, From www.PisteHors.com, reproduced with permission in snowheads.com

A horrific accident involving a 'magic carpet' type ski lift has caused the death of a 7 year old girl in the ski resort of Val Cenis in the Maurienne valley in France. The accident occured on Saturday afternoon at 15h45. The horizontal lift “le Renardeau“ consists of a 120 metre rolling band and is used to assist skiers getting to the ski lifts. Brand new, it was only installed on December 15th and had been checked by a technician on the morning of the accident.

The cause of the accident is yet to be established. The young girl was dragged into the small space between the moving band and the end of the lift. Her 14 year old brother tried to free the girl but was unable to help and injured his hand. Another person managed to stop the moving carpet.

Rescue workers were rapidly on the scene. There was just an arm and the upper body visible when they arrived. One of the rescuers tried to give heart massage and mouth to mouth while the band was cut. Designed to withstand the passage of thousands of skiers this was a long and difficult operation.

Three doctors, brought to the scene by helicopter, tried for over an hour to save the girl. The parents were also on the scene but were powerless to help. The mayor of the resort was visibly shocked by the tragedy “to see a 7 year old child die in such conditions is terrible and is something that should never have happened” he commented. The ski lifts were stopped at 11 o’clock on Sunday for a few minutes as a mark of respect for the girl.

Moving carpets are increasing popular in the Alps. The lift was built and installed by an Italian company based in Turin. Daniel Touffait, head of piste security couldn’t understand how the accident occurred. “There are two security mechanisms, a micro-switch and two photoelectric cells that can detect the presence of a foreign body and should stop the lift instantly”. Yesterday the other lifts of the same type were in operation but under the control of a member of the piste patrol.

Jean Charles Simiand, head of the ski lift operator’s body the SNTF said “there are around 100 of these lifts in France, they are usually very good for children, they are not considered as ski lifts so are not under the same legal control.”

There has already been a fatal accident in 2003 in Austria on a similar lift. M. Simiand commented, “Maybe there needs to be stricter legislation governing these lifts”.
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Crying or Very sad
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Strangely, this report isn't on the pistehors site. At least, not at the moment.
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Hi David,

I saw it posted on another site and asked PisteHors if I could post it here - there is an email contact form on the site.

It is a terrible, and hopefully rare, accident. When I was a kid I hated travelling on escalators because I thought I might get my feet trapped at the end... and now my worst nightmares have been realised.

Sad
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Two fatalities in two years. There should be an inquiry into what has gone wrong. These lifts are usually unattended and used by beginners. This makes all the more important that they are 100% safe in all conditions.

Where it says "Yesterday the other lifts of the same type were in operation but under the control of a member of the piste patrol" was this just in Val Cenis, or all over the Alps? I would say they need to be controlled everywhere until the cause of these accidents are determined and rectified.

In general, these lifts are so slow it's difficult to see any danger, perhaps that is the problem.
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The first time I came across a 'magic carpet', was at Sunshine & Louse last year. They were all manned by an attendant 100% of the time, able to stop and clear when necessary.

I must admit that I was surprised in Andorra that the carpets were left unattended. This often lead to cases where the build up of people attempting to move out of the way at the end - usually because they weren’t leaving the correct gap when getting on – caused such a build up that people were often attempting to jump sideways off them.

Although unacceptable, I’m not surprised that this accident has happened when they are left without attendants.
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picture of accident location
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Indeed that photo, and this report from Expatica, suggests that this was a beginners' travelator - not part of a ski lift.
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Pete - they may be slow but being geared right down from a relatively high speed motor will have tremendous power at the belt. Akin to a winch. It rather looks as though in this case the safety devices didn't work and if that's so maybe even an operator emergency power off button wouldn't have helped ? Very sad.

There is one of these things in Plagne Bellecote - adjacent to the Arpette Chair. Not sure if it is attended or not ?
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I'm aware of the mechanics of gearing Wink

It's obvious safety devices failed (or were disabled?). An emergency off button should be a separate safety device and again should be failsafe.

I can't recall seeing an attendant on the magic carpet at Plagne Bellecote.
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Pete - Sorry about teaching egg sucking Wink Agreed re the EPO button but sod's law says failsafe devices will destroy others - in this case a 7 year old. I think your suggestion about them being disabled is probably close to the truth.

Leaving aside technology, I suppose an attendant at the arrivals end could have simply picked her up. And would also address Michelle's point about clumping.
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I suspect that this is more a case of bad design than a failure to have an attendant. Was there an emergency stop button?
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David Goldsmith wrote:
Indeed that photo, and this report from Expatica, suggests that this was a beginners' travelator - not part of a ski lift.


That much seemed clear from the original story.
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Got it. 'Magic carpet' is also being used as a term for those belts that get you up to speed to board a chairlift.
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An update on this terrible incident from Expatica.
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Thanks for the update. A couple of interesting points here. Why was it possible to restart the lift with the safety devices disconnected, seems like an elemental design fault to me?
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Quote:

A couple of interesting points here...


Follow the link and scroll down to the bottom for the new information, most of the link repeats the skihors.com article already quoted by SM's first post.
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Two people have now been arrested in connection with this accident and are in custody in Val Cenis police station.
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There's one of these at Val d'Isere to get up to the top of the Funicular. My kids both fell off, Sam hitting his head hard (saved by his helmet). Someone had fallen over half on and half off the lift, and the lift continued, piling all the skiers into his legs. The smaller kids like Sam were unable to get off easily and fell heavily when they hit an obstruction. It was quite a while before someone found the emergency stop, and even longer to get everyone off and standing up again. I was worried about hands getting under the edge of the belt, and didn't allow the kids on it again, clearly it's not just hands that can get dragged under. I couldn't do anything as I was some way below the lift watching in horror.
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Anybody repeat Anybody who disconects the safety systems on pieces of machinery such as these deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest possible extent of the law, the safety systems are there for a good reason, that is why they are called safety systems the designers have put them in to ensure the safety of the users, if as has been reported they were disabled in order to stop the lift from switching itself off twice a day ............ rolling eyes

They have several of these lifts now in the Wengen area most are almost flat but one long one goes up the side of the nursery slopes, from memory there are cutout switches at both top and bottom and also a lift opperator at the bottom to see everything runs smoothly which is what I would expext from any decent resort, the electric motors in these lifts are probably in the order of 20HP which as has now been tragically proved is more than enough to kill a person Crying or Very sad
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The latest update on this sad story is that the two lifties who were arrested are now out on bail. They were released in great secrecy a week ago and the press have only just been informed. There is a manslaughter charge pending but it is against person or company X for the mo.

Val Cenis has only one of this type of lift in service, the other three are not running.

The girl's parents have asked M. Chirac (French President) to ban this type of lift in France.

Just to note that the girl was not wearing skis when the accident happened, I don't know if this is normal use for this type of lift.
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On the one at Merlette I've never seen anyone use it who's not been on skis. Far quicker to walk, they're really slow, and they don't usually take people up more than a slight gradient. No signs to say you shouldn't use them without skis though.

The lifties are out on bail maybe, but if it can be categorically proved that they switched the safeties off, how stupid can you get, they deserve to be made an example of imo. Doesn't matter how many times the safety mechanisms cut in unnecessarily each day, it only takes one genuine incident and look what happened.

If they're that unreliable/dangerous, full backing to the parents in their campaign. Small comfort though if they succeed.
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There seems to have been something wrong with the whole setup of this particular lift.

Firstly we are told that the safety system was cutting in too often, that is usually a sign of problems in the setup.

Next there do not appear to have been any emergency stop buttons within easy reach of the top or bottom of the lift, these are normally standard so why were they not used, as has been mentioned these lifts are not normally very fast so it should have been possible to shut off the lift before the little girl died.

Why was the lift without an attendant to cut the power in an emergency

How did the girl get dragged into the mechanism ? the only examples of these type of lifts that I've seen don't have a gap big enough for a finger to get through, does that mean that in this case some of the protective housing was not in place ?

The whole setup doesn't seem right, certainly those responsible for authorising the removal/deactivation of the saftey systemsshould be held to account for this tragic accident, but maybe also anyone who was responsible for the inspection of the setup, here in the UK a health and saftey inspector would have had to look at shuch an installation before it could have been run, and would have checked that emergency stop buttons were in place and worked, but I'm not sure of the rules in France.
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Quote:
Why was the lift without an attendant to cut the power in an emergency

Moving carpet style things, slow-moving, some only 20 or so yards in length, seem to be unattended as a rule. Doubt resorts could afford to have staff at this type of 'lift'.

No shortage of rules and regs in France as in the UK, but this sort of incident illustrates to what extent they are there to reassure people rather than anything effective.... (natural scepticism at play)
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Sorry PG maybe I should have qualified that line, if there were no emergency stop buttons and from the incident report there do not seem to have been any accesible to the public, then there should have been an attendant to oversee things and react in an emergency, the fact that there appear to have been neither is very worrying
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Quite agree, but that involves 'common sense'. Or if there was one it was probably disconnected. Or perhaps they can't have them cos kids would keep pressing them for fun. Just can't win, eh?
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OK PG answer me this, of the four similar lifts in Wengen two are flat (virtually) and run by the ski school using whichever teacher is taking the class and have big emergency stop buttons on, one is long and goes up the side of the beginners slope, at maybe 15 to 20 degrees has stop buttons at top and bottom and a lift attendant to get people on in the first place, the last is short and steep but gets people up to a lift, from memory that also has emergency stop buttons top and bottom, I cannot recall ever having seen anyone messing arround with the stop buttons by accident but I was once on the nursery slope one when someone fell off, another person hit the emergency stop and that was it, lift stopped at once no damage to anyone then lift restarted once the faller had got back up.

So the question arrises, are French kids/Kids in French resorts more disruptive than those in Swiss resorts, or do Swiss safety regulations differ so much from French ones that emergency stop buttons are not required ?
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I should think the Swiss are just more organised and safety-conscious. The French are generally lackadaisical about this sort of thing. Doubt the kids themselves are that more disruptive, more often than not it's young Brits that cause problems pratting around on holiday.

The Swiss system seems eminently sensible. I can't think of a single reason why it shouldn't have been in place in France from the outset. I'd lay odds no Swiss liftie would have disconnected the safeties because they were annoying him through cutting in unnecessarily.
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I'd encourage eveyone to hold their horses on this one until the full facts emerge. It seems we have very little knowledge to go on, and to apportion blame or to speculate on the causes of the accident is a bit premature.

It's been speculated, for instance, that safety systems were deliberately disconnected. From the links above I can't find anything to support that.

The accident will almost certainly be reconstructed and then the actual cause (mechanical, human error, negligence, whatever) of the girl's death should be known for sure.
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Sub judice, etc. The perils of open discussion on web forums. Perhaps this is indeed something that should be clarified with respect to responsibility of the forum organisers, as well as the posters themselves. I must admit I'm still pretty unclear on the situation.
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Ok David, the link I read was posted by sherman-maeir, which had a note from our own davidof, concerning the disabled safety devices, it could from the limited information be an accident resulting from one of three things, firstly bad lift design, secondly negligance in disabeling the safety devices or thirdly human error in not reseting the safety devices after they stoped the lift, of course this may then bring in poor lift design which allowed the lift to be re started with the safety devices not set.

However I do agree that until the full facts are available (which might be years away) we should stop discussing this, I am however confident that the French legal system is more likely to prosecute than the Austrians !

One last point however, the grieving mother is asking for all such lifts to be banned, given the situation hopefully the French and others will not imediately do this without knowing the precise cause of the accident, fortunately it didn't occur in the uk as then our nanny state would have already banned them Exclamation
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Quote:
I am however confident that the French legal system is more likely to prosecute than the Austrians !


See: http://www.pistehors.com/comments/A242_0_1_0_C/
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Mind you there has to be a cut off point between nannying and good safety,where do you draw the line and say beyond there it's the victims own fault ?
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PG wrote:
Sub judice, etc. The perils of open discussion on web forums. Perhaps this is indeed something that should be clarified with respect to responsibility of the forum organisers, as well as the posters themselves. I must admit I'm still pretty unclear on the situation.


It is a good point. As I posted the original story to the http://www.skiersjournal.com bulletin board which another snowhead posted here I thought I would take professional legal advice on this (like the SkiClub).

This particular trial will not be held in front of a jury. Jury trials are rare in Europe and increasingly less common in England. Judges don't feel themselves to be influenced by public discussion and will usually take expert advice when reaching their decision.

I can add a couple of other bits of information about this accident. The beltway ends in a pivoting metal flap, this presumably allows access to some part of the machinary. If the flap is open it would allow enough room for a child to be dragged into the lift. The flap is on some kind sensor which stops the machine when opened. I assume the allegation is that this is one of the sensors that has been disconnected.

There was also a 'workshop type' red stop button at the end of the lift. I'm going from TV news footage and magazine photos. I note from the original report that the Austrians also had an accident with this type of lift so it is not just a French problem.

I posted the original story because I think it is important for dangers to be in the open but I agree that it is also important to put these risks in perspective. It is a horrible and tragic accident which shouldn't happen again.
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Ok davidof, thanks for that info, so making an educated guess as to what happend, the girl somehow managed to go through the hinged flap, probably due to a fault or tampering with the safety system which one would assume have normally prevented this, her brother then graps his sister and another person probably hits the big red emergency stop button, unfortunately to late to save the girl, my guess is that particular attention will be paid to the access flap and the safety systems to see if it is a design flaw or staff incompetance/negligence that caused this tracic accident, of course the other thing to look at would be weather or not it would have occured had the girl had skis or snowboard on her feet.
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Update: A new law which includes an amendment introducing state controls on 'moving carpet'-type lifts has just passed its first reading in the French Senate.

The law would introduce national technical and security controls on moving carpet lifts, which seems to suggest that the authorities did no such checks prior to the Val Cenis accident, presumably leaving this up to the individual resorts?
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Shocking and tragic. I was on this travelator in January! We came to it from some off-piste skiing.
http://www.skicardiff.com/photos/pictures/Pic_26_6.jpg
It's at a low point of the system to get people accross to the main ski area and seemed very little used (at least, nobody in the area when we were there). Only slightly uphill and very slow, so one person in our group skated up (but the rest of us were feeling tired). I don't remember an Off button but I wasn't really looking.
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I had problems using the magic carpet in Val D'Isere that takes you up about 50 m to the Olympique gondola- it didn't actually grip my board and without the free foot there to provide support I would have shot backwards down the carpet. Not very reassuring! Shocked
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Thanks! I am Lee Craig, used to post fairly regularly on Ski club site- took me a while to get here, but I have been busy. Thinking of booking next years holiday got me thinking of you guys again Smile
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