Passengers Stuck for Hours on Bronx Zoo Cable Car System

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 family of three from the offline gondola, which swung about 100 feet in the air. They got the gondola back online and restarted the system, allowing the passengers in the other cars to complete their rides before getting off.

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

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

The Skyfari, which passes over the butterfly garden, the baboon habitat and part of the African plains exhibit where lions and gazelles roam, offers visitors a bird's-eye view of the celebrated zoo and its surroundings. Each of its gondolas can hold up to four people.

Zoo officials and rescuers, who used a crane brought from Queens, said they didn't know why a cable car had become misaligned.

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

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

In April 2006, both cars on an aerial tramway that shuttles commuters and tourists between Manhattan and an island in the East River stopped moving because of mechanical problems. The breakdown stranded 69 people for about 11 hours.

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

The Roosevelt Island cable car system, featured in the movies "Spider-Man" and "City Slickers," was repaired and upgraded.

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