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48 evacuated off stranded Cannon Mountain tram cars

Union Leader Correspondent

February 14. 2016 7:21PM
The yellow "mustard" Cannon Mountain tramway car is shown in this file photo. (Union Leader file)

FRANCONIA — Some four dozen people had an unexpected adventure on Valentine’s Day when the trams they were riding got stuck on the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway.

According to Cannon Mountain officials, there were 41 passengers in the ascending “mustard” tram, which was halted about 100 feet from the tramhouse, some 40 feet off the ground.

Its companion, the red-colored tram “ketchup,” had seven passengers and was a similar distance from the top on the downslope.

At approximately 1:50 p.m. Sunday, a mechanical issue caused the braking system to engage, stopping the two-tram system, the ski area said in a statement.

“The mood was enthusiastic for the first 45 minutes,” said Ben Landry, who was in the “mustard” car. “But then it was super cold.”

Just after 3 p.m., blankets were sent up to the top car. The call was made to evacuate at 3:20 p.m.

Cannon personnel, assisted by area firefighters, used a rope and cables to first lower the passengers from the “ketchup” tram before repeating the process for the “mustard” car. No one was injured.

“I was really scared, it wasn’t fun,” said Ashley Miesner of Northborough, Mass, who was riding in the “mustard” tram. Unlike most of her fellow passengers, she was there just to enjoy the views from the lodge at the top of Cannon.

Cannon officials said the “ketchup” tram was emptied by 3:45 p.m.

The occupants of the “mustard” tram were out by 4:45 p.m.

All occupants were brought down the mountain by Snowcat.

John DeViVo, general manager of Cannon and the tramway, said this is the first time to anyone’s knowledge that the current tram — which dates back to 1980; the first tram ran in 1938 — has gotten stuck and required passengers to be removed.

He said efforts are underway to have the tram open for business today, pending inspections by the state and a tram contractor.

Paula Tracy of WMUR-TV, a former staff writer for the Union Leader, was aboard the “mustard” tram.

A longtime skier at Cannon and tram rider, Tracy said she felt a jolt and the “mustard” tram swayed.

Tracy praised Cannon employees for acting coolly under pressure, including Daryl Dietlein, who was pulled aboard the tram and evaluated which passenger should be lowered first.

Tracy said Courtney Lockhart, the lift operations supervisor, gave her winter jacket to a woman with an 8-month-old baby.

“They did a great job,” Tracy said.

“We train on each type of lift,” said DeViVo, “and then we train on the tram.”

Passengers who were stuck on the trams received an apology from Cannon, hot food and drinks and vouchers for free skiing.

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