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Woman dies at Anakeesta theme park in Gatlinburg after police say she jumped from a chairlift

When crews arrived, a woman was found on the ground under the chairlift. She was pronounced dead on the scene, according to Gatlinburg officials.

GATLINBURG, Tenn — A woman died at Anakeesta on Thursday after jumping from a chairlift, according to Gatlinburg officials.

The Gatlinburg Fire and Rescue Department responded to the theme park around 7:41 p.m. regarding an incident on the park's chairlift, city officials said.

When crews arrived, they found a woman on the ground under the chairlift. She was pronounced dead at the scene, according to city officials. 

"A tragic incident occurred [Thursday] evening. 911 was called immediately. Our hearts are with the family of the deceased," Anakeesta Vice President of Marketing and Sale Michele Canney said in a statement to 10News. 

On Friday, the Gatlinburg Police Department said it appeared the incident was a suicide after talking with witnesses who said they saw the woman jump from the chairlift. Police said the woman was a 40-year-old from La Vergne, Tennessee, saying detectives contacted her family.

The incident remains under investigation.

Anakeesta released a statement about the incident Friday afternoon. It said it operated the chairlift after the incident was initially reported to allow guests who were on it to exit. It then shut the lift down for "an abundance of safety to investigate the incident." Anakeesta said it then used the transportation fleet to take guests to the exit at the mountaintop.

Anakeesta announced Friday morning the chairlift was closed. The park said its Ridge Rambler trucks would be bringing people up to the park until the lift reopens on Saturday.

"The chair lift was thoroughly inspected 60 days ago by an outside inspector, and was again reviewed by our lift team after the incident. From initial review of the incident, it appears the death was not related to the operation of the lift. The lift was found to be in safe working order," Anakeesta said. "We mourn this tragic loss of life. Our deepest sympathies are with the family."

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said its chief elevator inspector conducted a mechanical inspection of the aerial lift and reviewed other aspects of the lift's operations. Anakeesta said the state completed the inspection Friday and approved reopening the lift.

The state said it would not release any details of its investigation to the public until it was completed.

According to state inspection reports, the Anakeesta lift was last inspected on April 21, 2022. The latest inspection report said everything complied with applicable codes, and previous inspection reports from the past two years reported no issues.

The state said Anakeesta's lift operating permit expires on August 4, 2022, but said a new permit has been approved.

Editor's Note: WBIR typically does not report suicides, but chose to in this specific circumstance due to the highly public nature of the incident, and the fact that the circumstances were revealed after the initial incident report.

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