Broken carabiner found to be cause of fallen panel from Portland Aerial Tram

A photo from Snapchat shows the metal piece that fell from the Portland Aerial Tram and hit a woman Tuesday. (Contributed Photo)

A backup safety device meant to keep panels from falling off Portland’s Aerial Tram failed Tuesday, causing a panel to fall off and strike a woman on the head.

The 21-year-old woman suffered some minor injuries when she was hit by a thin decorative aluminum panel just before noon. She was treated at the scene.

In their joint news release Wednesday, PBOT and OHSU said crews found that one of the carabiners that held the panel to the roof of the north cabin broke.

It was not immediately known why the carabiner failed.

But the carabiners are the last line of defense to keep the panels attached to the tram.

The panels are held to the cabin by metal latches and if those latches fail, the carabiners and wire tethers are supposed to keep the panels from falling off.

PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera said crews didn’t know why the metal latches failed in the first place.

The failure of the latches and the broken carabiners are part of an investigation being conducted by PBOT and OHSU. PBOT’s independent ropeway engineer from Colorado will also inspect the tram next week.

OHSU didn't answer KATU's questions on whether the siding that fell was overdue to be replace or how often those pieces are checked to make sure they're properly locked in.

The tram was shut down for a few weeks over the summer to replace the ropes. The whole system has a scheduled inspection once a year and then an unannounced one as well.

A report into what happened is expected to be completed in January, PBOT and OHSU said.

The panel that fell from the tram Tuesday was not reattached and is being inspected.

Crews also replaced all the carabiners and wire tethers on all panels on each cabin as a precaution.

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