PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - The Portland Bureau of Transportation and Oregon Health Sciences University are launching an independent safety investigation, after a decorative panel came off an aerial tram car Tuesday morning, hitting a woman in the head 130 feet below.
Amazingly, the woman only has minor injuries.
The tram system connects the South Waterfront with OHSU’s main campus and is owned by the City of Portland. The two cabins travel 22 miles per hour and rise 500 feet over the city.
PBOT said this is the first time something has ever fallen from them in their 12-year history.
In a joint press release issued Wednesday evening, PBOT and OHSU said the decorative panels are attached to the cabins by metal latches. In case the latches fail, there is also a secondary security system consisting of carabiners and wire tethers.
“In this incident, one of the carabiners holding the panel to the cabin was found to have broken. At this time, it is not known what caused the carabiner to break,” the release said.
PBOT’s independent ropeway engineer from Colorado will be inspecting the tram next week to determine a specific cause of the failure and to recommend potential safety improvements.
The finished report is expected in January.
Crews have replaced all the carabiners and tethers on all remaining panels and the trams are back to a normal service schedule.
A gust of wind was reported at the time the panel broke off Tuesday morning.
According to OHSU’s website, the tram is designed to handle severe weather conditions and just closed for five weeks over the summer for track rope maintenance.
Gobytram.com reports that the aerial tram was designed by a company based in Switzerland and Los Angeles, and the website said:
“There will be times when high winds or ice may affect Tram operations. However, this type of Tram has proved itself very capable and trustworthy in the extreme winter conditions of the Swiss Alps. Tram staff constantly monitor weather conditions and will adjust operations as needed.”
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