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RCMP say Sea to Sky Gondola cable may have been intentionally cut

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VANCOUVER—Squamish RCMP say a preliminary investigation suggests the cable carrying the Sea to Sky Gondola’s 30 cars may have been intentionally cut.

The popular gondola near Squamish, B.C., collapsed shortly after 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Police have been investigating since they were first alerted to a “major lift incident” at 7 a.m. Saturday morning.

RCMP Const. Ashley MacKay said in a statement that an employee working at the Summit heard a loud bang, which lead to the discovery. No staff or guests were on the gondola at the time, and no injuries were reported.

Photos provided by the RCMP show at least one gondola car sitting on the ground near the bottom of the lift, and gondola cables dangling from their supports.

“We recognize the potential of what could have been and we are thankful that no one was injured,” Const. MacKay’s statement said. “We are currently assessing the damage but our preliminary assessment suggests that a cable was cut.”

The RCMP is asking the public to stay away from the area, which includes nearby hiking trails. Police are also asking anyone with information or anyone who was in the area at the time to come forward.

“That includes hikers, climbers and campers who were in the area of the Sea to Sky Gondola, as well as the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park, between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. this morning,” MacKay’s statement said.

The gondola is closed for the foreseeable future, according to a statement on the company’s website.

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The Sea to Sky Gondola climbs 830 metres to reach a height of 885 metres above Howe Sound, just south of Squamish. Thirty gondola cabins can carry eight passengers each between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The gondola was not in operation when the collapse occurred.

Technical Safety B.C. is also investigating the incident, spokesperson Kathryn McGufficke, confirmed in an email.

“Our safety officers are currently investigating the incident,” McGufficke wrote. “We’re unable to speculate on causes at this time.”

Technical Safety B.C. oversees the safety of passenger ropeways throughout the province, including tramways, gondolas, chairlifts, rope tows and passenger conveyors.

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According to its 2018 State of Safety report, Technical Safety B.C. responded to 78 reported incidents, including 41 injuries and 180 physical inspections.

Of those 180 inspections, 16 were given a “pass,” and 156 were given a “conditional pass” meaning only low-hazard non-compliance issues were found. In that scenario, inspected equipment is allowed to continue operating while the operator works to address the compliance issues.

Eight passenger ropeways were given a “fail” grade, meaning the equipment inspected did not comply with the Safety Standards Act, and the equipment must not be used until identified problems are fixed.

According to Technical Safety B.C., the Sea to Sky Gondola has been inspected twice so far in 2019 (which the organization refers to as physical assessments).

The most recent inspection was conducted May 30, 2019, following the installation of 10 additional carriers. It was also inspected May 10, 2019, following the installation of a new clutch.

The Sea to Sky Gondola was given a “conditional pass” after both inspections, said Laura McLeod, a spokesperson for Technical Safety B.C.

“There were no significant safety hazards or technical failures identified in either inspection by our safety officer,” said McLeod said.

The Sea to Sky Gondola was manufactured by Austrian company Dopplemayr Garaventa Group.

In December 2008, a gondola in Whistler, B.C., built by the same company, collapsed while loaded with skiers.

Twelve of the 43 people riding the lift at the time were injured. The final report into that collapse, issued by Technical Safety B.C. after an 18 month investigation, blamed ice buildup inside one of the gondola’s support towers that caused it to buckle and collapse.

Dopplemayr Garaventa Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More to come.

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Liberals block ethics commissioner from testifying about SNC-Lavalin report

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The Liberal majority on the House ethics committee voted down an opposition motion to have Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion testify about his report which found that Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act over the SNC-Lavalin affair. Vassy Kapelos gets reaction from MPs on the committee. Plus, the Power Panel breaks down the Ford government’s changes to Ontario’s sex-education curriculum.

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Joshua Boyle worried about what his wife might tell police

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Joshua Boyle

After calling 911 to report that his wife was missing and suicidal, Joshua Boyle told an Ottawa police sergeant that he was also worried what she might tell authorities when she was found.

“He told me he was concerned, as any husband would be, with what Caitlan (Coleman) would say to us when we found her,” Sgt. Shane Henderson told court Tuesday.

Henderson was one of the first officers to respond to Boyle’s 911 emergency call late on the night of Dec. 30, 2017. A recording of that call was played in court Tuesday.

The 911 call was made at 11:47 p.m. from a Centretown address.

Boyle told the dispatcher that his wife was threatening to kill herself. He said she was alone in her room then ran outside, and was “screaming at the top of her lungs that she was going to kill herself.”

He said she had borderline personality disorder, PTSD, “extreme mental instability” and other issues.

“I am very worried for her right now,” he said in the telephone recording, played in court.

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Boyle told police his wife was wearing a hijab scarf on her head, but did not have a coat and may not have shoes.

Before she left the apartment, Boyle said they had an argument that “turned into rabid self-loathing, a panic attack, something, I’m not sure.”

“I had asked her to stay in her room,” he said.

“It shouldn’t be long,” the dispatcher told Boyle. “We’ll get some officers to see you there, OK?”

“OK,” Boyle replied. “Just try to be gentle with her: She is really going through a rough time.”

Sgt. Henderson was the first officer on scene, and went to Boyle’s apartment at 12:05 a.m.

Boyle repeated what he had told the dispatcher, and said his wife had initially raced up the stairs towards another apartment in the three-storey apartment block. Henderson testified: “He told me that he did not want to drag Caitlan back into the apartment or did not want to hit her.”

Henderson and another officer went to the second apartment and interviewed the young man who lived there. The tenant said he had heard someone banging on his back door 20 minutes earlier, but did not answer it.

Court heard that the officers searched the back staircase and yard but could not locate Coleman so they returned to Boyle’s apartment for more information.

According to Henderson, Boyle said Coleman was particularly stressed because her mother was in town, and she was worried about the state of their apartment. They had also argued, Boyle told Henderson, about drawing on walls and “Caitlan, as a wife, not performing her roles and responsibilities as a mother.”

Boyle told Henderson that he wanted Coleman to stay in her room and calm down. “He told me he kept the door open and at no time prevented her from leaving,” Henderson testified.

“He said he offered to have sex with Caitlan if she wanted to.”

When Henderson asked if Coleman had a cellphone, Boyle reached on top of the fridge and retrieved a flip phone.

Henderson asked what it was doing there. “Boyle said he took the phone away to make sure she did not break the phone as she had broken phones in the past,” Henderson testified.

Boyle is on trial on 19 charges, including assault, sexual assault and forcible confinement.

His wife Caitlan Coleman, with whom he was held hostage in Afghanistan, is the principal complainant in the case. She’s expected to testify Wednesday.

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Tanker crash kills one, injures nine near Cereal Alberta

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Tanker crash

“One of the semi trucks was hauling fuel and that fuel ignited,” said RCMP Cpl. Laurel Scott. “So, that caused other vehicles in the collision to catch fire. A second semi was hauling butane and that’s caused a concern.”

A release from RCMP also confirmed the collision area is “consumed with flames.”

As a result of the second truck hauling butane, a preliminary evacuation order had been issued for the hamlet of Chinook.

By 9:00 pm, Alberta Emergency Alert officially rescinded the evacuation order for the community.

STARS Air Ambulance has flown one person to hospital in Calgary in serious, potentially life-threatening condition while HALO transported another individual in serious condition.

Brideaux also confirmed to Global News that six people have been treated at the scene and are likely to be released.

RCMP are also reaching out to anyone who was a part of or was witness to the domino crash, asking them to meet with officers in nearby Oyen.

“We’re asking those people to attend the Legion in Oyen,” said Scott. “Right now the Legion has been opened, food is available at the Legion, our Victims Services Unit members are at the Legion, and we have an RCMP member or members at the Legion. So, anybody who was a part of this collision, witness or needing some assistance in relation to the collision, is asked to go to the Legion.”

There is no word yet on the original cause of the fatal crash, as Scott added it will be several hours before a collision analyst is able to attend the scene.

“We will have a collision analyst attending,” she said. “But, I can tell you that collision analyst is not able and has not been able to look at the scene to do any examination or investigation.”

Traffic has since been rerouted from Highway 9 to Highway 884 eastbound and Highway 41 westbound.

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