Sea-to-Sky Gondola cable break was no accident, safety report confirms

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Sea-to-Sky Gondola cable break was no accident, safety report confirms
Sea-to-Sky Gondola cable break was no accident, safety report confirms

It was no accident when the cable of the Sea-to-Sky Gondola near Squamish, B.C., snapped in the middle of the night for the second year in a row last month, a new report has confirmed.

Dozens of cars along the gondola went crashing into the mountainside after the cable broke around 4 a.m. PT on Sept. 14. RCMP and gondola staff immediately said the line had been deliberately cut, just as it was the year before.

Technical Safety B.C. confirmed Friday that a vandal, or vandals, sliced partway through the cable last month. The rest of the cable snapped under the pressure.

"It is important the public understands that there are no systemic safety concerns with these kinds of systems," read a statement from the agency on Friday. "What happened at the Sea-to-Sky Gondola is exceptionally rare."

Rare everywhere, perhaps, but at the Sea-to-Sky gondola in the past two years.

The line was deliberately cut the first time on Aug. 10, 2019. Almost 30 gondola cars were ruined that year, causing between $5 million and $10 million in damage.

Staff expected a similar level of damage this year.

WATCH | Reaction after the cable on B.C.'s Sea-to-Sky Gondola was cut for a second time:

Depending on where the line was cut, the metal cabins could have fallen up to 300 metres before slamming into the mountainside.

The line is pulled tight enough to support the weight of the two kilometre-long gondola. Officials have said the force of the snapping cable could "easily" kill a person if it hit somebody.

RCMP have not confirmed whether the vandalism incidents are linked or whether the same person or people might be responsible for both crimes.

No arrests have been made. A $250,000 reward has been offered to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandal, or vandals.

The gondola, located off Highway 99 near the Stawamus Chief mountain, is a major tourist attraction. It usually carries 400,000 visitors annually up the steep mountainside above Howe Sound.

The company repaired the attraction with a fresh line and new cars after the 2019 crime. It partially reopened in February and fully reopened in May, only to close again after the second incident in September.

General manager Kirby Brown said the company beefed up security after last year, but couldn't increase security to the point of "militarization" with barbed wire fencing, for example, because the area is shared with B.C. Parks and is popular with hikers and climbers.

WATCH | Sea-to-Sky manager says gondola will be rebuilt: