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Amid stifling heat, dozens trapped in Bronx Zoo cable cars for hours


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Amid stifling heat, dozens trapped in Bronx Zoo cable cars for hours



July 10th 2008



Costanza for News

Firefighters rescue passengers who were stranded - some for hours in blistering heat and humidity - on a stalled sky tram at the Bronx Zoo.



Mechanical failure stalled the Bronx Zoo's Skyfari ride on Wednesday, stranding dozens of people in the air for five hours as an army of rescuers worked to get them down.


Zoo officials said the cable cars went kaput shortly before the 5 p.m. closing time when one gondola went slightly off the line, causing an automatic power shutoff.


Thirty adults and seven kids were trapped on the sky tram anywhere between 60 and 100 feet above the ground in wilting heat and humidity after a thunderstorm blew through.


A 14-year-old girl, her mother and a female relative were rescued from the off-track lead car at 7:55 p.m.


They were brought down in a bucket on a crane, snapping photos of the emergency workers helping them.


Rescuers then worked to realign the car and get the ride going again. But it was 10:20 p.m. before Skyfari resumed its trip over the stomping ground of baboons, tigers, gazelles and other puzzled critters and brought the other riders to safety.


Police said no one was injured, but a pregnant woman who began having cramps and another woman who had trouble breathing were taken to Jacobi Medical Center for checkups.


Robin Dean, 25, who was stuck on the ride with a friend and her year-old baby, admitted, "We were a little scared," but said discomfort was the main concern.


"We were closed in a box for five hours, so everyone was hungry and it got a little cold near the end," she said. "The baby slept through the whole thing, but for us it was kind of boring to be there that long."


Another rider, Frank Corrun, said, "It was pretty dramatic, with the thunderstorm and the lightning and all of that."


At a news conference attended by Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and other officials, John Calvelli, senior vice president of public affairs at the zoo, apologized to the tired and hungry visitors, saying, "We are heartily sorry for the ordeal."


The emergency brought dozens of rescuers to the zoo - police, paramedics, Con Ed crews, firefighters with a ladder truck and the heavy equipment operator with his crane.


The Skyfari, which operates between April and October at $3 a ride, provides a "bird's-eye view" of the zoo along a 2-mile route.

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