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The potentially dangerous repeat sabotage yesterday of a popular aerial scenic tourist attraction, in which a heavy steel cable was deliberately cut through in the middle of the night, has left detectives pondering whether they are hunting a serial vandal, a deeply disgruntled and disturbed personality – or a psychopath.

The two-kilometre-long cable of the Sea-to-Sky Gondola near Squamish in the Canadian province of British Columbia was deliberately cut at about 4am – for the second consecutive year. The attack was incredibly dangerous – potentially for the perpetrators, as well as for staff and customers – and damage is likely to cost millions, as it did last year.

Canada’s famous ‘Mounties’, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), are on the trail. The Mounties are renowned for “always getting their man” (catching the culprit, that is) but they haven’t solved last year’s attack on the scenic ride yet, and the latest one has only just happened.

Sea-to-Sky Gondola general manager Kirby Brown told CBC News that his phone started ringing nonstop before dawn.

“This event mirrors last year’s event in a very eerie fashion … We’re all stunned and shocked,” Brown said.

“To me, this is somebody sabotaging our business.”

The heavy metal ‘gondola’ cabins could have plummeted up to 300 metres before slamming into the mountainside. Last year’s almost identical attack destroyed 30 gondola cars, causing damage to the value of between $5 million and $10 million. (Australian dollars are worth almost exactly the same as Canadian dollars.)

This year’s attack could prove even worse, because tourist attractions are already suffering in the pandemic, and smoke from the huge US wildfires means helicopters cannot fly to inspect the damage. As only six of the 39 cars were safely in the stations at either end of the gondola overnight, Brown expects the rest will be lost.

A major tourist attraction, the gondola usually carries 400,000 visitors a year up a steep mountainside above Howe Sound, delivering grand views.

Some photos of the scenically stunning Sea-to-Sky Gondola can be seen on the company’s website here.

The site currently bears the following notice:

September 14 Incident Update

The Sea to Sky Gondola team is stunned and saddened to report that a second act of vandalism has occurred. At approximately 4:00 am, we were alerted by our security team that a crime was in progress and that the cable had been cut. Squamish RCMP were on site immediately and our security system has provided surveillance footage of the incident. The gondola line was cleared last night at 11:00 pm and all staff and guests are safe.

As history has shown, we are a resilient team and community. We want to thank everyone for their outpouring of support this morning and we will be sharing information as it becomes available.

The gondola is closed and we ask that the public stay away from the area for the safety of everyone.

Brown said the perpetrator “has no regard for their own life and limb. They wanted to do what they did, they did it swiftly, they did it with skill”.

The line consists of six steel cables that are intertwined and kept under tension. Officials told CBC that the snapping cable could easily kill somebody if it hit them.

The RCMP set up roadblocks on the Sea-to-Sky Highway before dawn, stopping travellers and hunting for suspects. As police investigations continue, the company has ordered a new cable and is bracing to learn the extent of the damage.

Written by Peter Needham