BUENA PARK (AP) — Firefighters were slowly lowering 18 people from an amusement park ride stuck 100 feet in the air for more than five hours Friday night at Southern California’s Knott’s Berry Farm, officials said.
The riders, both children and adults, were harnessed to firefighters and hugging them tightly as they were lowered one-by-one from the Sky Cabin.
One girl who appeared to be about 10 years old could be seen smiling as she descended, her turquoise Converse sneakers dangling high above the crowd of onlookers.
Firefighters briefly pulled a large, cherry-picker crane up to the ride but decided not to use it and returned to using the ropes. After about two hours, around half of the riders, mostly children, were down.
The tourists and fun-seekers on the slow-moving ride are most likely hungry, claustrophobic and badly in need of a bathroom, but Orange County Fire authorities and park officials have both said they are not in danger.
“We’re visiting from Oregon,” rider Gave Javage told KNBC-TV via cellphone. “There’s nine in our group. “My son and his cousin are down below. They elected not to go on the ride. Good choice for them, huh?”
The Sky Cabin is a slow-moving attraction where riders in a circular tram travel up a large cylinder, which firefighters had to climb to begin saving the passengers. The ride is fully enclosed and is more like being in a room than on a ride. The Knott’s website calls it “mild” and says it’s meant to give “a 360 degree panoramic view of Orange County, Catalina Island, and the LA basin.”
It was 100 feet high when it stopped at about 2 p.m., Knott’s said in a statement. Park mechanics made several attempts to bring it down before calling the fire department.
A park employee is aboard and has been communicating via walkie-talkie with mechanics and firefighters throughout the afternoon and night.
County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz said the ride is confined and the riders are not exposed to the elements, so time is on firefighters’ side.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the breakdown.
In a much more frightening incident at Knott’s, a group of 20 people in 2013 were stuck 300 feet high on a ride that left them exposed with their legs dangling out.