Backup Safety System Allowed Tram Panel To Fall

The Portland Bureau of Transportation and OHSU are investigating what caused a decorative aluminum panel to fall from the Portland Aerial Tram shortly before noon on Tuesday, Dec. 4.

A 21-year-old woman was struck by the panel. She was evaluated at the scene by Portland Fire & Rescue, and declined further medical attention. Tram staff halted operations, checked on the injured person and inspected other panels on the tram cabins before resuming normal service. Crews monitored panels on the tram cabins throughout the rest of the service day.

The panel, part of the roof of the north cabin, was not reattached and is undergoing further inspection. It is one of four panels per cabin that are visual design elements, but not required for operation.

Each panel is attached to the cabins with metal latches. In case those latches fail, the panel is also held to the cabin by a set of carabiners and wire tethers, which make up a secondary security system. 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.

At 9:30 p.m., after the tram's regular service day concluded for Tuesday, crews started another set of inspections. They disassembled, inspected and worked on the panels for nearly four hours. Out of an abundance of caution, they replaced the carabiners and tethers on all panels on each cabin.

The incident is being investigated by PBOT and OHSU. PBOT's independent ropeway engineer from Colorado will conduct a thorough inspection of the tram next week, advising on the specific cause of the carabiner break and recommending whether further action or changes to equipment or inspections may be appropriate. To provide PBOT with independent advice, the ropeway engineer normally provides two inspections a year: one scheduled and one unannounced. In the past, the ropeway engineer has recommended revisions to inspection protocols that have been adopted by tram operators.

Information from the ropeway engineer and OHSU will be compiled in a final report to the Portland Aerial Tram Executive Management Committee, comprising PBOT and OHSU executives and one at-large member.

That report is expected to be completed in January.

Source: Portland Bureau of Transportation

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