Image: Gondola accident
Bonny Makarewicz  /  EPA
Rescue crews evacuate the Excaliber Gondola after a tower fell striking a condo near the bottom of the ski lift in Whistler, British Columbia, Dec. 16.
updated 12/16/2008 10:10:01 PM ET 2008-12-17T03:10:01

More than 50 people were rescued from about 30 gondola cars after a tower supporting the cables collapsed Tuesday at Canada's Whistler ski resort.

Police said there were no serious injuries at the resort, which is to host the alpine events of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. But health officials said earlier that five people had been taken to the hospital after the mid-afternoon accident.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Steve Wright said the gondolas that police were most concerned about had already been safely evacuated and a crane was brought in to support the tower.

"The first priority were the cars that were hanging precariously, one above a creek, and the one that was rescued above the bus shelter," Wright said.

Wright said the passengers who were rescued were in good spirits and were met by emergency health services. Frigid temperatures were not a concern because the people were wearing protective ski clothing and were in a sheltered environment, he added.

Tower fell near lift's bottom
The resort said in a news release that 53 guests were being evacuated and that the gondola section where the tower collapsed was approximately 30 feet above the ground.

Amber Turnau, a spokeswoman for the resort, said the tower that collapsed is on the lower half of the lift. She said Tower 4, the one that went down, is not far from the starting point.

The resort just unveiled a new lift connecting the peak of Whistler mountain to the peak of Blackcomb mountain; it's the highest in the world at 1,427 feet above the ground. It was not involved in Tuesday's collapse.

Wright said the accident took place near Fitzsimmons Creek, between Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains.

'Other people were hurt worse'
Jordan McDonald said one of his friends was in a gondola that hit the ground and rolled over.

"His head was all bashed up," McDonald told CTV Newsnet. "He walked away from it. He'll be OK, but a couple other people were hurt worse."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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