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Tignes cablecar evacuated

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Tignes, 12 November. A major incident on the Grande Motte glacier cablecar has resulted in all passengers being evacuated and winched to the ground. It appears that the drive cable malfunctioned and dislodged from its normal line of travel. The emergency brake was applied...

Eye-witnesses report panic within the cabin, which had almost reached the top station. At the bottom station, waiting passengers feared that the violently-swinging empty cabin would crash.
We are updating this thread as reports reach snowHeads. The initial account below came from ise who was on the mountain at the time, relayed via PG in Bourg St Maurice...
----------------
Minutes ago, according to on-the-spot snowHead, ise, a huge crash was heard from the Grande Motte cable car at Tignes. [Subsequent edit: Initial reports suggested that a drive cable snapped, later reports indicate that it has 'jumped' out of alignment.]
The passengers of the two crowded cars are now being winched to safety. More news to follow....


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Fri 12-11-04 12:36; edited 1 time in total
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Wow, talk about news just breaking! (or breaking news)


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Fri 12-11-04 12:36; edited 1 time in total
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Well done to getting the news on so fast

scary stuff - how long would it take to get it running again
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Two winters ago the same cablecar suffered severe damage when a huge amount of accumulated ice fell from a cable, causing the cable to bounce and jolt a cablecar cabin. The system was temporarily repaired for the season and then, I believe, more extensively repaired.

This accident will therefore be of some embarrassment to the operators. If, as reported, a cable has snapped and fallen [Edit: not now reported to be the case] the system will obviously be out of action for a while. We'll keep tabs on the situation for all early season skiers in Val and Tignes.

Here's a previous snowHeads thread on a series of problems with French cablecars in recent years (though they remain safe ways to travel in relative terms).


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Sat 13-11-04 23:15; edited 3 times in total
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Shocked
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bug! Hopefully no one hurt / stuck - and even more hopefully it'll be repaired in short order
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Ise was on the Leisse at the time. When it happened he reports that the cars were swinging hugely, up to 50° from the horizontal. Even if there are no serious injuries there must have been some pretty terrified people inside. The ascending car must have been packed solid.

Strangely enough yesterday was the first time I haven't taken the telepherique during a glacier visit. It seems to run in winds you would think dangerous - yesterday it was blowing a gale - and having my 9 year old with me at the time, I was quite relieved when he agreed to my "you don't want to take the cable car up today, do you?"....

One wonders about commercial pressures on the operators in situations like this. If it's a result of running the cable car in conditions which place the system under a dangerous strain, then the operators will have paid the price. Let's hope no one else has paid a bigger price. It will be out of action for a long time, I would have thought.
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If it is indeed a drive cable snapped . There would likely have to be an investigation & enquiry by The French Authorities before it would be able to run again for public use .
ON a lighter side , surely it doesnt matter if a Glacier Cable car is out for the winter , I mean glaciers are for summer skiing Madeye-Smiley
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Ok update from ise... it now looks as if the drive cable hasn't parted - it has somehow jumped out of alignment, leaving the cars stuck on the main cable. Not quite as disastrous but still highly scary for those inside. The ascending car was very close to the top, [url=http://bsm.alpesprovence.net/albumtignes300804template_files/Photos/tignes2908%20006%20(web).jpg]pretty much in this position[/url] - not the easiest place to recover the passengers from. The piste bashers are bringing people back down now...
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Whatever happened, it is pretty serious if the cars were swinging that violently and then evacuated. If the cable jumped out of alignment, or experienced some other problem, there must be an engineering explanation.

Maybe the lift company will give an official account shortly - perhaps ise could request a statement on behalf of snowHeads if they issue one.
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Eeek Shocked
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In the meantime, this page indicates the operational status of the lifts. At the time of writing, both the funicular and cablecar are reported 'closed', due to a 'technical problem', but the Leisse chairlift 'open'.

This lift map shows the various lifts concerned.
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Société des Téléphériques de la Grande Motte (STGM) confirm that the evacuation has been safely completed - but have clearly been briefed to say very little at the moment, other than...
Quote:
"Engineers are on the spot and are assessing the damage. We cannot say if the cable car will be out of action for a day, a week, or longer. Please ring back tomorrow...."
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A retrospective: here's a report (and photo) from PisteHors.com on the previous Grande Motte incident - virtually two years ago to the day (it happened on 11 November 2002).
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The Tignes Tourist Office have just confirmed (by phone) that
Quote:
"there were no serious injuries"....
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Were the passengers winched from the cablecar to the ground, or did they manage to pull them into the top station?

It would also be interesting to know how they got the rescue team to the scene.
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David Goldsmith, Yes they were all winched down via the hatch in the bottom of the car. It took four hours to complete the operation. Snowhead rob@rar reports that he was in the preceding cable car, and had not skied far down from 3500 when he heard an ear-piercing, screeching sound of metal on metal.

The upper car was carrying some 115 passengers, which to an extent helped to limit injuries, as usual they were packed in like sardines.

Fortunately the incident happened at a point where the car was "only" some 50 metres or so above the ground. Fleets of piste bashers were ferrying people down once they had been winched to safety. Rob's friend Trevor was stuck for some 3 and a half hours before getting down - obviously it was a case of "women and children first"...

Although Rob couldn't see the upper car too clearly as it was half in the clouds, he echoed Ise's report of the lower car swinging like a pendulum when it came to a halt. The Panoramic restaurant was packed with 'survivors' telling the tale afterwards, well and truly shaken up.

The drive cable was left hanging very low - it had clearly come completely adrift.

I mentioned earlier in the thread yesterday's strong winds, and my decision not to take the cable car then. According to Rob, if anything conditions were even worse today, the winds stronger, to the extent that the car he was in before the incident happened crawled up at a virtual snail's pace - clearly the safe operation of the telepherique was borderline this morning. Makes you think ....
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This was posted by 'j' on the Natives forum a short while ago:

Quote:
Just talked to a friend who was in the queue for the lift at the time :

"We were just stood at the bottom of the stairs [of the télépherique] trying to get on it and there was a big bang and all of the people at the top [of the stairs] ran back down"

According to her the 'drive' cable had 'fallen off the attachment' and was hitting the rock where the lift goes over the ridge.

It was so windy that helicopters couldn't be called and the people were being winched to safety.

The mountain was subsequently closed...

...doesn't bode well for BASI next week...


So, combining these reports, it seems that the original accounts of the cable were not far off the mark.
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You could see the cable just hanging down. If I have it correct there's an inertia brake onto the main cable which apparently engaged instantly, so the cars didn't move back down the cable at all. Obviously a pretty major incident but the fail safe worked and the rescue plans seemed to go into effect instantly and worked so some positive news there.

To add insult to injury, some of those evacuated then got caught in another incident on the funi', the report I heard (which I'll confirm later) suggests a problem with one of the doors which led to the descent taking around 30 mins. I was at the top waiting for the funi' and we were stood around 40mins by which time I'd guessed there was a problem, I know some people who were on the funi in question so I'll get more details later.

To add yet further insult, the lift compay apparently offered the people in the first incident a half day pass as compensation Puzzled
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Not a 'free cablecar to anywhere in the world', then?
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Happy My guess is some of the bars will be doing a good trade this evening .....
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Oh dear! - heading to Tignes tomorrow morning!!
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Welcome, snowHead H Thomas, snowHead ! Would have preferred your first post to have been in better circumstances! Still, all hope is not lost, as you can see from the following info. At least the glacier will remain open....
__________________________________________________

Nearly 100 skiers/boarders evacuated, no serious injuries, the STGM lift operator has just confirmed via the AFP media agency.

Quote:
"The cable car was buffeted by a gust of wind, the biggest we’ve ever experienced"
the STGM Chairman, Bernard Genevray, confirmed.

He continued:
Quote:
“The cable car was loaded with some 90 passengers, and was derailed from the drive cable. It was around 25 metres above the ground. The skiers were lowered, attached to safety harnesses, via the cabin trapdoors. The operation lasted two hours. There were no injuries."

The cable car will be out of action for “several days” in order to carry out the necessary tests and repairs, he added, stressing that the glacier would remain open with all other lifts operational.
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Here's a report (in French) from L'Express.
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...and another French news report just in from Le Parisien. They time the accident at approximately 10am yesterday, which indicates the speed with which ise and PG got the news to us.

In that report Le Parisien quotes a cablecar passenger, only named as Eric, who was winched to safety with the other 90 people on board. Not surprisingly he describes a scene of some terror, with people screaming and then very apprehensive of the 25m void to the ground they had to descend with the help of the rescue team. My French isn't up to a verbatim translation, so if anyone wants to tackle it, that would be worthwhile. And any other British eye-witness reports are welcome.

The incident is being provisionally defined as a derailment, with the wind to blame, but this must raise serious questions about the wind-monitoring equipment and forecasting up there. No doubt we'll receive more information on this, and presumably there will be an investigation by the regional safety authority.
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Telepherique terror for passengers Le Parisien
Tignes (Savoie) from our correspondent

THE 90 SKIERS who found themselves in the Grande-Motte cablecar, on the Tignes glacier, will long remember the terrifying experience they lived through when the cablecar was derailed close to the top station, at an altitude of 3,450 metres. “Suddenly we felt the cablecar shudder, and we thought that the wind had blown us against the top pylon. I thought to myself: this can’t be happening, surely we’re not going to fall!” said Eric, 24 years old, one of the passengers.

25m above the ground, lowered by ropes: Bernard Genevray, chairman of STGM (Société des Téléphériques de la Grande-Motte), confirmed that the wind had been responsible for the incident: “there was an extremely powerful gust about 10 am, which caused the cablecar to swing. No advance warning of such strong winds had been given in the weather forecasts. The cablecar was therefore derailed as it arrived at the last pylon. It however stayed on its cables and the system shut down. Our engineers were rapidly on the spot, and decided that the passengers had to be evacuated.”

Among the passengers some were getting frightened as, beneath the cablecar, there was a 25 metre drop. “Some were crying, screaming, and the engineers had to reassure them. Even I wasn’t exactly confident” explained Eric.

”Those who suffered from vertigo were really terrified”: The rescuers opened the two hatches in the cable car and attached the ropes that would be used to lower the passengers. “Safety harnesses were attached and one by one, we were lowered down the rope. It was quite an effort and those who suffered from vertigo were really terrified. Two women were screaming because they were afraid of falling. Once on the ground we were ferried down to the restaurant in piste bashers, where we were able to get warm and gradually calm down. But it was one hell of an adventure”, Eric admitted. The rescue operation took more than two hours. There were no injuries. According to Bernard Genevray, “at no moment was there any danger of the cablecar falling, the safety mechanisms functioned perfectly. There are two cables, the load-bearing and the drive cable. The cablecar remained firmly attached to the former, and there was no collision with the pylon. It is the first time ever such an incident has occurred with this cablecar. I’ve been in Tignes for 24 years and I’ve never seen anything like it”
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Merci, PG!
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Just been up to Arc 1600, talking to some of the ski club kids - a couple were in the stranded cablecar, one other was waiting at the bottom station for the empty car to arrive. Apparently there were a few scrapes and bruises down below - when the lower car ground to a halt, swaying violently, a hundred or so people queueing suddenly panicked, thinking the brake might not hold, and that the cable car might slide down, ramming into the bottom station and the crowded platform. Everyone made a rush for the narrow exit, which funnels into just a couple of locked entrance turnstiles and a single exit space. No serious injury, but there was one hell of a crush and some very frightened little kids...
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Back from an eventful week in Tignes - the cable car being just one highlight! Just missed being on the cable car which got stuck as I was on the car in front which had just unloaded its passengers. However, one guy from my ski class spent an unpleasant three hours waiting to be lowered from the stuck cable car.

My ride up in the cable car was quite nerve-racking because of the high wind. The car crawled up at a snail's pace until we got to the top - the slowest journey I've ever had! I'd just started to ski away from the top station when the incident happened, and we heard a very unpleasant noise of metal scraping on metal and knew straightaway that there was a major problem. From my vantage point I wasn't aware of a sudden gust of wind which was much stronger than average wind speed, but things were obviously different at cable car height. My friend said that his journey had also been at a very slow pace, but a few moments before the derailment the car had suddenly speeded up before stopping quite violently and rocking back and fore for several seconds. Because the car was so full nobody was thrown around inside, but some people had minor scrapes and scratches from getting hit by skis and boards.

Fortunately the derailment happened when the car was relatively close to the ground - just two or three minutes earlier and the car would have been 100+ metres above the ground, and I'm not sure how the evacuation would have happened then. As others have reported above, it was the children who were winched down first, with the exception of one rather rotound lady ESF instructor who was really losing it and was sent down first. I've got a bit of shaky video of the evacuation which was taken from some distance away - I'll post it when I've had a chance to edit it and put it on my website.

ise, sorry I didn't get time to meet with you in resort. I had almost no spare time because of ski classes, lectures and video feedback sessions so didn't have the chance to call.
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Update from a Les Arcs club skier, 16 year old Samy Blanc (photo), who was at the front of the derailed cablecar, standing near the driver when the winds began to buffet the cable car. According to Samy, the driver was so concerned that he applied the emergency brake before the cable dislodged...

It would be interesting to know if that is accurate - you would think the inertia brake would cut in automatically and not be reliant on the driver?


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Sat 13-11-04 18:13; edited 1 time in total
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I was watching my driver on the way up and he was looking pretty concerned for the entire journey. This didn't help with my usual anxiety levels when on lifts I can tell you! Then seeing the derailment just a few minutes later was very unnerving, even though I wasn't involved.

PS: Pete - managed to but the washing machine on my way to Geneva this morning!
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Certainly some high drama. I for one would like to acknowledge and thank those snowHeads involved in bringing us some gripping up to date reports as this story began to unfold.
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Yes, this story has marked a step forward for snowHeads into significant original news sourcing and reporting. As far as I'm aware no French media (including internet) picked up on the news as quickly as snowHeads. And I very much doubt if any publication or site has reported it so thoroughly.

I tried to interest the newsdesks of the Sunday Times, and then Observer, today, but I think they were having a busy day. We'll see if anything appears tomorrow.

Let's hope that snowHeads are on the spot when other big stories break this winter. Obviously, the larger our community the more likely this is to happen.
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I heard that a Sunday Times journalist had been trying to find someone to talk to on Friday afternoon. Not sure if anythink came of this.
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I'm no expert, but there might be some publicity mileage in this perhaps. If one of the more snow orientated papers were to learn of the speedy reporting here, it may make an interesting article for snowsports followers which could provide a link to this site.
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I telephoned the Tignes lift company STGM this morning. Repairs to the cable car will be carried out at least for the duration of the coming week. On completion, the necessary official permits to resume operation are required. How long it will take to obtain these is anyone's guess - although no doubt the STGM's parent company, the Compagnie des Alpes, will be pushing for these to be issued as a matter of urgency!

To compound problems the Double M etc is not yet operational, according to the lift company. The cannons are working but "they are waiting for the next snowfall before opening the runs back down to Val Claret". The spokesperson did say that some skiers are in fact skiing back down, but that it was entirely "à leurs risques et périls !" (no translation needed?)

With the large number of clubs training and the runs back to resort some time from opening (no snow forecast before the end of next week, warmer temperatures from Tuesday with 0°C around 3000m), early arrivals are likely to encounter some lengthy queues...
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David Goldsmith, it'd have been over an hour sooner if I'd have been more on the ball actually Very Happy
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Ditto me too. I wasn't skiing with my phone that day (too frightening of falling at speed on my GS course!) otherwise I would have called PG to report in within a couple of minutes of it happening. As it was I spend an uneasy few hours not able to call friends to see if they were stuck in the cable car or not. It wasn't until 2pm that I found out who was and who wasn't stuck.
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Confused I am scheduled to take a break during a business trip the last weekend of November in the area and planned to ski at Espace Killy. How big are chances to really experience some fun, or only frustration? Any other destination, coming from Lyon, for the weekend?
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Holger Issle, welcome to snowHead snowHeads snowHead ! "Should" be fixed by then. Les Deux Alpes (glacier) is an alternative, conditions permitting, scheduled to open November 27th. Contact easiski via pm or better still via her site for further information, she's based there.

But back to Tignes... Val is supposed to open on November 27th as well - your best bet seeing as you're coming anyway is to make a last minute decision. Check back here, we can give you up to date conditions....
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