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Looking into chairlift inspections

After Friday's tragic accident on Lake Freeman, some are wondering who is responsible for inspecting private chairlifts.

Posted: Jun 4, 2018 6:19 PM
Updated: Jun 4, 2018 6:22 PM

WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)—After Friday's tragic accident on Lake Freeman, some are wondering who is responsible for inspecting private chairlifts.

After speaking with first responders and homeowners on Lake Freeman today, News 18 learned this is a question many people in the community have.

It's complicated, because so many of the lifts are built on private property by private companies. Officials in Monticello said they hope to come up with some sort of solution to avoid another tragedy.

"Most of my neighbors have a chairlift and we use them all the time," said Ken Prieboy.


He was shocked when his neighbor's chairlift failed on Friday.

"The dining room table was all set with the plates and the forks and knives and so I'm sure they were just getting ready to come up and have dinner and so to have that happen is obviously a tragic thing," he said. 

The accident killed one person and seriously injured three others, and now Prieboy is re-thinking a recent decision.

"I got an estimate last week for one, so now I'm thinking that over."

Being an engineer for 35 years, he understands how the lifts work, but he's trying to figure out why this one failed.

He brought up an interesting point, "there are some chairlifts on this lake 20, 30, 40, 50 years old."

And that brought up another concern.

"Should these chairlifts, should they have an annual inspection, and if so who should be doing them, is that part of the homeowner's responsibility?" asked Prieboy.

Monticello Fire Chief Galen Logan wonders the same thing.

"We've had this conversation here at the fire department and with other agencies, you know who actually is in charge of inspecting these if anybody," Logan asked. 

He said the lifts are installed by private companies and he's not sure what kind of certifications are required for them to be put in.

But now, it's certainly something local agencies will be discussing.

"Obviously I have a lot of questions," said Prieboy.

Questions he believes only time will answer.

"Ultimately it would have stopped the gondola in its place and that is what they are designed to do if there is a failure, why that didn't happen we don't know yet."

As for the surviving victims of that wreck on Friday, two are still in critical condition.

According to IU Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Kris Klink is now stable. Tyra Klink is still in critical condition.

Ernie Elder, Junior is now at IU Health Arnett in Lafayette, where he remains critical. He was married to Angela Elder, the woman who died at the scene.

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