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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK
People injured in cable car crash
Fallen gondola
Five people were inside a gondola car which fell to the ground
Five people, including a three-year-old girl, were injured after a cable car derailed and crashed to the ground.

The accident at the Nevis Range, near Fort William in north west Scotland, involved a collision between two cars.

One is reported to have slid back down a cable near the top of the gondola system on Aonach Mor, hitting another below it, on Thursday afternoon.

The girl, her parents, a 52-year-old man and his son, 24, were airlifted to Belford Hospital in Fort William.

The three-year-old and her parents were then transferred to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness by helicopter and ambulance.

It is thought a number of those injured were thrown from the car.

At one point, 75 people were trapped due to the failure of the gondola system.

All were later freed and the gondola system reopened following what has been described as an "isolated incident" within one of the cars.

Staff slide down the cable, land on top of the gondolas, prise the door open and put in an emergency rope ladder to get people out
Ian Ferguson

Police said the 52-year-old man and his son are from Totnes, Devon.

One of the casualties suffered a chest injury, another face and spinal injuries, one was walking wounded and the fourth is still being assessed.

The girl is believed to have suffered injuries to her legs in the accident.

It is believed one man may be taken to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow for treatment.

'Recognised risk'

About 50 people were left stranded at the gondola's top station and 25 others in cars suspended on the cable following the incident.

An RAF helicopter ferried about 40 from the station, while 10 others walked down the mountain themselves.

Emergency services said as well as the five confirmed injured, there were reports of other people walking down from the scene with injuries.

Trevor Johnson, Highlands and Islands Fire and Rescue Service divisional officer, said firefighters trained for an accident on the gondola line only a month ago.

He said: "On this occasion it really proved worthwhile."

Ben Nevis gondolas
People were stuck inside other gondolas on Ben Nevis

Describing the scene faced by the first fire crews to arrive from Fort William and Spean Bridge, Mr Johnson said: "It was very controlled.

"Obviously it is a recognised risk within the area."

In a statement, the Nevis Range said the incident happened 500m from the top station at 1530 BST.

Marian Austin, managing director of the Nevis Range resort, said four of the injured needed a stretcher and one was "walking wounded".

She said: "The main cable has not been affected. Damage has been confined to the gondola involved.

"Our thoughts are with the people who have been injured and we wish them a speedy recovery."

Miss Austin said an investigation has been launched into the accident.

New cable fitted

The Doppelmayr gondola system is made up of 80 six-seat closed cabins running on a continuous 4.6km steel cable.

They carry mountain bikers, climbers, walkers, paraglider and hanglider enthusiasts from 300ft up to 2,150ft on the north face of Aonach Mor, Britain's eighth highest mountain.

Two military helicopters, an air ambulance, four ambulance crews, police, fire brigade and a mountain rescue team were sent to the scene.

Reporter Ian Ferguson, talking to BBC Scotland from Aonach Mor, said the accident happened near the top of the gondola system where the fall to the ground was "not very great".

One of the cars had slid back down the cable, colliding with the other at Tower 14.

Map showing Nevis Range

Mr Ferguson continued: "I've been to emergency exercises here before and people are told to stay in the gondolas and not to move.

"Staff slide down the cable, land on top of the gondolas, prise the door open and put in an emergency rope ladder to get people out.

"The mountain rescue team take part in that as well. But that process only starts once casualties have been dealt with."

A local mountain expert said a new cable had been fitted to the system this year.

The gondolas are suspended from the cable and are held on by large clamps. As the gondola enters the base or top station, the clamps open, releasing the car.

The journey up and down takes between 12 and 15 minutes each way.

The system is the only one of its kind in Britain and was originally built 12 years ago to transport skiers up Aonach Mor.

A rescuer describes the extent of the collision

'We could feel the car swinging'
13 Jul 06 |  Highlands and Islands
Nevis cable cars 'one of a kind'
13 Jul 06 |  Highlands and Islands
In Pictures: Cable car accident
13 Jul 06 |  In Pictures

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