British Columbia

What we know about the vandalism of the Sea to Sky gondola

Squamish RCMP is calling it a "deliberate act of vandalism." The cable that was cut is 55 millimetres in diameter and made up of six strands.

The cable that was cut is 55 mm in diameter and made up of 6 strands

The Sea to Sky gondola has closed down indefinitely after its two-kilometre cable was deliberately cut around 4 a.m. on Saturday. (Squamish RCMP )

RCMP continue to investigate after the cable of the Sea to Sky gondola, located along Highway 99 in Squamish, B.C., was deliberately cut on Aug. 10. 

The two kilometre-long gondola is a popular tourist attraction that gives visitors views over Howe Sound.

The summit features a restaurant, family activities and regularly hosts special events. 

Here is what we know so far about the incident. 

A 'crime scene'

Squamish RCMP Insp. Kara Triance told CBC News the incident was a "deliberate act of vandalism" and the area is being treated as a crime scene.  

Mounties believe the cable was cut around 4 a.m. on Saturday. 

RCMP are working with multiple investigators on the ground including WorkSafeBC and Technical Safety B.C., an independent organization that oversees heavy equipment in the province. 

The gondola wasn't operating at the time the cable was cut. No injuries have been reported as a result of the incident, but the attraction manager said the vandalism still endangered lives because security staff and others nearby could have been hit.

"With the forces [this person] unleashed, it could have easily, easily killed somebody. Whether there was somebody camping below, whether the rope reacted differently in the top or bottom terminal, there could have been, truly, loss of life," said Kirby Brown.

Sea to Sky Gondola cars limp to the ground, days after RCMP said the gondola's cable was deliberately cut by a vandal. (CBC)

How was the cable cut?

RCMP have released few details about how the cable was cut or what tools may have been used. The cable was 55 millimetres in diameter and made up of six strands.

Triance said the perpetrator would have had to hike the trail underneath the gondola and climb up a maintenance pole to access the cable.

Almost all 30 gondola cars crashed to the ground when the cable for the Sea to Sky gondola was deliberately cut. (Deborah Goble/CBC)

A communications manager with the Sea to Sky gondola told CBC News they couldn't speak about whether or not there were any security cameras on site. 

Impact of closure

Close to 30 gondola cars attached to the cable crashed to the ground after the cable was cut. The gondola company said between 18 and 20 of those cars will need to be replaced, along with the cable.

An estimated 200 people who work at the Sea to Sky gondola, including full time and seasonal workers, could be affected by the closure. 

"Our efforts are focused on the well-being of our incredible team, working with the RCMP and determining steps toward reopening," read a statement from the Sea to Sky Gondola on Monday. 

The 55-millimetre cable supporting the Sea to Sky gondola came crashing down early Saturday morning. (Kirby Brown)

Property damage is estimated to be more than $1 million but that does not include loss of revenue from daily trips, as well as private events.

"Sea to Sky Gondola is one of Squamish's key attractions and it's very saddening to lose a main experience during the busy summer months," Tourism Squamish executive director Leslie Weeks told CBC in a statement last week. 

Multiple private events have had to be cancelled due to the closure. Staff are contacting those affected to relocate as many of the events as possible. 

It's not yet known how long it could take to get the gondola back up and running.

The gondola 

The Sea to Sky gondola first launched in May 2014 and is open year-round.

The trip from the base to the summit 885 metres above sea level lasts approximately 10 minutes. The gondola carries up to 240 passengers at a time on its 30 cars.

The summit features a restaurant, family activities and regularly hosts weddings and special events. 

The gondola's normal operating hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m on Thursday to Saturday, and 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Sunday to Wednesday.

With files from Deborah Goble and Eva Uguen-Csenge

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