At the bottom of the lift, videos showed skiers being catapulted off the chairs as they swung around the outgoing bullwheel and crushed into one another in brutal fashion – forcing other skiers to jump off before they got to the bottom and leading tabloids to brand the chairlift a “meat grinder” .
“Russian citizen Oleg Vitrov, one of the skiers injured in the incident, immediately returned to Gudauri to finish out the rest of his ski trip”
The incident attracted worldwide coverage ranging from CNN, the New York Times and many more in America to The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Daily Mail in the UK – the latter dubbing the breakdown “the chairlift from hell”.
In total, eleven people were affected with injuries; six from Russia, four from the Ukraine, and a pregnant woman from Sweden. Most of the injuries were minor.
Those injured were immediately taken to hospital, and the latest reports suggest that all but five of the 11 have now been discharged.
The Medical Director of Mediclab Georgia, Giorgi Gotsadze, has said that the health of the Swedish citizen is stable and there are no pregnancy-related problems at this stage.
The Georgian Journal reports that Georgia’s Deputy Health Minister Zaza Sopromadze, who visited the patients in hospital, added: “none of the injured people’s lives are in danger. The condition of the pregnant woman is satisfactory as well.”
There is however, a girl in hospital who required an operation on her spine. According to the Gudauri website her life is not at risk, the operation was successful, and doctors have “given a positive prognosis and said that she will rise to her feet”.
The Gudauri ski resort is now back up and running, with all areas open to skiers except the damaged Sadzele ropeway section at the top of the resort, where the incident occured. It is reported that this particular ropeway is often closed anyway due to the avalanche danger that surrounds it at 3279m.
Most tourists have stayed on to see out their ski holidays, and it is reported that those involved in the incident have been invited back to Georgia by First Deputy Prime Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Dimitry Kumsishvili next year as well, and that they have accepted.
Kumsishvili said: “People are skiing and they continue their holiday.”
Indeed, Russian citizen Oleg Vitrov, one of the skiers injured in the incident, immediately returned to Gudauri to finish out the rest of his ski trip after being discharged from hospital.
One tourist told IPN: “We arrived in Gudauri a few days ago from India. We saw what happened on Friday but despite this, we are going to stay here and have a good time. The weather is good and the most important thing is that people are very hospitable here.”
As previously, please be warned that this footage may be disturbing to some.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs have launched an investigation in accordance with Article 275 of the Criminal Code of Georgia, which deals with a violation of the safety or operation of the railway, water, air, or cable traffic movement.
It remains unclear exactly what caused the nightmarish situation at Gudauri, but a voltage fluctuation or brake issues seem most likely.
A source who worked as a lift mechanic and in lift-building in the ski industry for a full 12 years has informed us that a rollback – a failure of brakes and other counter devices – is probably the most likely culprit, although this has not been confirmed.
The Ministry of Economy in Georgia have contacted Doppelmayr Garaventa group, who installed the lift (and who have installed over 14,800 lifts in 92 countries) for a reaction and it is understood experts are now in Gadauri to evaluate the problem.
“Not only experts from the Doppelmayr Company, but international independent experts will also be called,” said First Deputy Prime Minister Kumsishvili. “It is important for us to conduct an examination through the involvement of independent experts.”
For now, skiing goes on as normal in one of Georgia’s most famous ski resorts, but it is now a resort seen as infamous in many corners of the globe.
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