The largest Ferris wheel on the East Coast gave 66 people in Orlando a scare on Friday after it stopped in the middle of the ride, leaving all of them stranded and waiting to be rescued.
Fortunately, prompt intervention by Orange County Fire Rescue managed to secure all of them, with spokeswoman Kathleen Kennedy declaring that none of the trapped riders suffered any injuries, and that the rescue operation lasted for more than three hours.
The 400-foot high Ferris wheel, called The Orlando Eye, stopped mid-ride because of a power malfunction for more than 45 minutes, after which a technical team and the firefighters restored energy through a back-up generator and set out to rescue the riders from their capsules. An elite contingent of rescue climbers were also on the field and ready to intervene, but were ultimately not needed. They already had experience in climbing the wheel, though only in a training simulation for this exact kind of events.
The process was complicated and lengthy because, despite the back-up generator managed to power the wheel to spin again, the doors of the capsules remained locked even at ground level and each needed to be manually opened. The ride has been closed ever since and will probably be re-opened only after a technical investigation pinpoints the exact causes of the power malfunction.
The Orlando Eye PR manager Andrea Alava described the malfunction with more details in an email statement, saying that it was a safety trigger associated with a technical error. At approximately quarter till 4 p.m., The Eye’s operating systems identified an error with a system which monitors the wheel’s position, and shut down automatically as designed for safety reasons.
“Immediately following the default, the operations team began working to resolve the matter to allow guests to disembark the attraction. A backup system was employed that allowed capsules to be moved to the platform and opened manually,” she also said.
Alava apologized for the inconvenience and said that all efforts were now directed towards studying the problem and restoring full functionality of the Ferris wheel as soon as possible. Local news outlets reported that several tweets were issued from the stranded riders stating that the wheel had started and stopped moving a couple of times, probably during the manual rescue operation.
The Orlando Eye is the biggest Ferris wheel on the East Coast and second nationwide, after the Texas Star. It weighs more than 3 million pounds and its cabins are designed to sustain up to 15 people.
Image Source: avantiresort.com