Authorities are investigating the death of a woman after she plunged to her death after falling from a chair lift. The horrific tragedy occurred at Anakeesta, a theme park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Investigators with the Gatlinburg Police Department said they are investigating the incident as an “apparent suicide.” Anakeesta’s chair lift sits atop a mountain in the East Tennessee area. Visitors take a chair lift ride to the top and back down again when they’re done.
Chris Cannon, an official with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, said the ride is classified as a “conveyance device,” like an elevator.
Cannon also said the chief elevator inspector will “conduct a mechanical inspection of the aerial lift and review multiple aspects of the lift’s operations.”
According to Cannon, the last time authorities inspected the lift was on April 21. Per reports, Anakeesta’s lift permit will expire on August 4. However, the city has already approved a new license, per Cannon.
According to city official Seth Butler, the tragedy occurred around 7:40 Thursday evening. Gatlinburg Fire and Rescue crews responded to the scene of the incident. Once there, where they found the woman deceased under the lift.
Witness Jeffery McConnell said he was visiting the popular attraction with his fiancée and three children when the woman fell. According to McConnell, she appeared to be in her late-20s and fell just before it reached the summit.
Additionally, witnesses who spoke to Gatlinburg Police Department officers confirmed that the victim “jumped from the chairlift.”
Before she fell, McConnell said other lift riders tried to alert the woman that her safety railing was up. However, she ignored them.
Gatlinburg theme park tragedy ruled a suicide
McConnell and fellow witness Jay Deuro said the staff at Anakeesta kept the ride going after the fall. “You could see the concern on everyone’s face that was getting on,” Deuro said about the fall.
After the incident, Anakeesta representatives said they operated the lift long enough to get riders off. Then they immediately closed it down.
McConnell said that after he got to the foot of the mountain, he told people waiting in line to “not look down” as they went up.
In a social media post, the park stated that the Ridge Rambler ride would be open the following day. However, ride officials closed down the chair lift ride until authorities could investigate the incident.
After an initial investigation by investigators, they reopened the chairlift. They also said that the incident was not related to the operation of the lift.
“The lift will resume normal operations with park opening on Saturday, July 30,” Anakeesta’s official statement said. According to Cannon, the investigation process can take up to eight weeks.