The Sea to Sky Gondola south of Squamish is closed after suffering major damage in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The Squamish RCMP is treating the the collapse as a criminal investigation, and said Saturday that the gondola’s cable appears to have been cut.
“We recognize the potential of what could have been and are thankful that no one was injured,” said Const. Ashley MacKay.
“We are currently assessing the damage but our preliminary assessment suggests that a cable was cut.”
The company that operates the attraction says a haul rope (five centimetre cable) snapped, and most of the gondola’s 30 cabins fell to the ground.
Six cabins were in the gondola’s upper and lower stations and were unaffected.
“What we do know at this point is not a ton, other than there was a catastrophic failure of the haul rope, so that’s the cable that the gondola is on. We inspected it last week, it was in great shape,” said Sea to Sky Gondola general manager Kirby Brown.
“We had a great day operating yesterday, there was nothing extraordinary about the temperatures or anything environmental that could have caused this.”
Brown added that the line that snapped is checked daily, weekly and monthly, along with an annual inspection.
Brown said the RCMP has been called into investigate a possible act of vandalism.
Police tape was up cordoning off the area Saturday morning, and RCMP said they would hold a media availability around 4 p.m.
Regulator Technical Safety BC has been deployed to investigate the collapse, and said it will not speculate on cause until its probe is complete. It said no injuries have been reported.
The Sea to Sky Gondola said the lift manufacturer, Dopplemayr, and an international rope maintenance company are also en route to inspect the gondola.
“There’s no evidence of a rock slide and all the towers are intact,” said Brown.”
“So it’s not that. We’ve seen both ends of the cable now from the top and from the bottom where it pulled apart, or broke, or was cut, and that’s what we need to figure out — how that could have happened.”
Repairs to the gondola will be “significant” according to the Brown, who could not give a timeline for it to reopen.
The Sea to Summit trail underneath the gondola route was also closed Saturday.
The Squamish RCMP is asking anyone who was in the area — including hikers, climbers and campers — between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. to come forward.
It is not the first time the gondola has seen a safety issue. In February, 2014, shortly before the attraction opened to the public, an empty gondola cabin fell to the ground.
An investigation into that accident found it was caused by a combination of environmental and operational factors along with high winds.