Passengers saved from Bronx Zoo cable car system

THE BRONX - (AP) - A sightseeing cable car system at the Bronx Zoo abruptly shut down Wednesday when one of its gondolas went slightly out of alignment, stranding dozens of people for hours high above habitats for baboons and other animals.

Firefighters and police officers used a crane to rescue a familyof three from the offline gondola, which swung about 100 feet inthe air. They got the gondola back online and restarted the system,allowing the passengers in the other cars to complete their ridesbefore getting off.

The cable car system, called the Skyfari, broke down during itsaerial route around 5:30 p.m., halting 14 cars, zoo spokeswomanPatti Calabrese said. Thirty adults and seven children werestranded, but no injuries were reported, police said.

A 14-year-old girl, her mother and another adult relative wereplucked from the offline Skyfari gondola around 8:15 p.m., policesaid. The other 34 people stepped off the cable cars about 10 p.m.

The Skyfari, which passes over the butterfly garden, the baboonhabitat and part of the African plains exhibit where lions andgazelles roam, offers visitors a bird's-eye view of the celebratedzoo and its surroundings. Each of its gondolas can hold up to fourpeople.

Zoo officials and rescuers, who used a crane brought fromQueens, said they didn't know why a cable car had becomemisaligned.

Neighborhood resident Gwen Lawson said she saw the paralyzedcable cars through binoculars from her 22nd-floor apartment windowshortly after a thunder and lightning storm.

The Skyfari, which opened in the early 1970s, is certified foroperation by the state Department of Labor. A department spokesmandidn't immediately reply to an e-mail or a telephone message leftat an after-hours number.

In April 2006, both cars on an aerial tramway that shuttlescommuters and tourists between Manhattan and an island in the EastRiver stopped moving because of mechanical problems. The breakdownstranded 69 people for about 11 hours.

Police staged a daring rescue, going up in a diesel-poweredgondola to reach the cable cars, which offer breathtaking views ofthe city from up to 250 feet high, and removing the passengers afew at a time.

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