The cable of the Sea-to-Sky Gondola has been deliberately cut in the middle of the night for the second year in a row, leaving the tourist attraction in shambles and staff at the company completely bewildered.
The company and the RCMP confirmed the 55 millimetre-thick line of the gondola was severed overnight, sending cars crashing into the mountain.
General Manager Kirby Brown said his phone started ringing off the hook with the news before dawn.
« This is a repeat incident of what happened last year, » he said. « We’re all stunned and shocked. »
RCMP are providing an update on the investigation into the incident at 11 a.m. PT. CBC News is livestreaming the news conference above.
Brown said the crews haven’t been able to fully assess the damage due to smoke from U.S. wildfires, which means helicopters used to survey the scene can’t fly.
The same thing happened at the tourist attraction near Squamish, B.C., on Aug. 10, 2019, damaging more than 30 gondola cars and causing between $5 million and $10 million in damage.
WATCH | The National’s report on the 2019 crime and its effect on nearby Squamish, B.C.:
The company beefed up its surveillance systems after what happened last year, Brown said, adding more surveillance cameras along the line and an automatic motion-detection security system that is monitored 24/7 by a third party.
He said the person who cut the cable triggered the automatic alarm system at around 4 a.m. PT, alerting the RCMP.
« I’ve seen with my own eyes this morning exactly what happened, » said Brown, who has access to security footage.
« This individual has no regard for their own life and limb. They wanted to do what they did, they did it swiftly, they did it with skill. »
No one was hurt as a result of the recent vandalism, which was also the case last year. Police have not announced any arrests for either crime.
Brown said the damage caused last night is likely equal to that of last year, in terms of dollar value.
He said that, after last year, the company couldn’t increase its security to the point of « militarization » with barbed wire fencing, for example, because the area is shared with BC Parks and is popular with hikers and climbers.
Brown declined to say whether the line was cut in the same place as it was in 2019, saying he did not want to compromise the RCMP investigation.
Officers set up road blocks on the Sea-to-Sky Highway before dawn, stopping travellers driving north and south as they looked for suspects. The West Vancouver Police Department and RCMP’s police dog team are also part of the investigation.
RCMP are asking the public to stay out of the area, which includes climbing routes, hiking trails and parking lots.
The two kilometre-long gondola, located off Highway 99 near the Stawamus Chief mountain, is a major tourist attraction carrying 400,000 visitors annually up a steep mountainside above Howe Sound.
The company repaired the attraction with a fresh line and new cars after the incident last year. It partially reopened in February and fully reopened in May.
The gondola was already running at a reduced capacity this summer because of the pandemic, and operations would have slowed down even further for the fall season.
Brown said the company hopes to avoid any layoffs beyond what the normal seasonal staffing changes.
The company wasted no time on next steps: Brown said an order for a new cable went in at 8 a.m.
« One person did this to us. To our team, to our company, to our owners, to our town, and we’re just not going to let one person take us down, » he said. « We will rebuild, we will be back. »
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