Holidaymakers riding a new aerial gondola system at Walt Disney World in Florida on Saturday night were stranded in the air for several hours after an unknown problem caused some of the gondolas to come to a halt.
The Disney Skyliner gondola system launched on 29 September.
Three independently running sections carrying 300 gondolas in total connect Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and three Walt Disney World resorts, according to Disney World.
Passengers who were in the gondolas on Saturday said one of the sections came to an abrupt stop at around 8pm.
Pictures posted on social media showed several gondolas scrunched up together at one of the system’s five stations in an apparent collision.
Disney World did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday evening. It is not clear what caused the problem.
What many hoped would be a brief closure grew into a shutdown that lasted more than three hours.
Several people called for help on social media. Ryan O’Reilly, secretary of the union that represents firefighters at Walt Disney World, said emergency medical workers received phone calls about anxiety attacks.
A Disney World spokeswoman told The Orlando Sentinel that the company was investigating what led to “the unexpected downtime”, but declined to provide more information.
The whole gondola system is now shut down, and it is not clear when it will reopen, the newspaper reported.
Live from the Riviera @Disney #Skyliner station. They are starting to rescue the people in the gondolas closest to the station and we had to move because they are going to start evacuating everyone. People have been stuck for 2 hours. pic.twitter.com/N2QpXGXqQm
— Jena Polyak (@jenapolyak)
Mr O’Reilly said people in six gondolas were rescued by firefighters, who used special equipment attached to a truck to lift people out.
George Wallace, 28, from Moscow, Idaho, said he was on vacation with his wife and two children when the gondola came to a “sudden stop”.
The family didn’t think anything was wrong at first, but then a loud message started playing in the gondola, telling them to stay seated and that there was an emergency pack – containing water, notepads, some bags and a glow stick – under the seat.
“In the moment it was definitely scary because it was the first time I had ever been on the Skyliner, in addition to it being only a few days old,” Mr Wallace said in an email.
He added: “My kids were crying for a while, and my wife became very anxious. We started to use the glow stick and notepads to try and calm the kids down.”
The gondola started moving again after 11pm, Wallace said.
New York Times