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Helicopter rescue for 44 skiers stuck on chair lift in French Pyrenees

Emergency services were called after the machine broke down, trapping skiers for more than two hours

Two skiers sit on a mountain chair lift with their legs and skis dangling

The skiers were left stuck on a ski chair lift more than 10 metres off the ground Pic: Supavadee butradee / Shutterstock

Forty-four skiers, including children, have been rescued by helicopter after becoming trapped on a broken-down chair lift for two hours in a ski resort in the Pyrenees.

A breakdown on February 7, at the Cambre d’Aze ski station near Saint-Pierre-dels-Forcats (Pyrénées-Orientales) caused the holidaymakers to become stuck, hanging more than 10 metres off the ground.

When the chair lift could not be restarted, staff “immediately triggered the procedure provided for in our operating procedures and called our air rescue teams", said Jacques Alvarez, director of ski transport Altiservice.

Carole Jamin, one of the skiers who was trapped and rescued, told BFMTV: “They came by helicopter, and the rescuers attached us with harnesses and lowered us to the piste. It felt like it took a long time, but I think they did their best, as quickly as they could. It was impressive.”

The rescue required eight piste workers, around 12 gendarmes from mountain rescue team the peloton de haute montagne (PGHM) d’Osséja, and the dangerous areas rescue team GRIMP (groupe de recherche et d’intervention en milieu périlleux).

Major Eddie Marty, from the PGHM, told BFMTV that the successful evacuation underlined the importance of joint training exercises across mountain rescue teams.

He said: “Working with several people who are not part of the same group [emergency team] is always complicated, but it went extremely well in this case. We all know each other from doing joint exercises, and we saw the benefit of all these exercises during this incident.”

No one was injured in the incident.

The chair lift was repaired on Monday evening and is now back in normal operation.

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