2 Roosevelt Island cable cars stuck after mechanical problem
By ELIZABETH LeSURE
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) -- Two cable cars carrying dozens of people were left hanging over a river for hours on Tuesday when the cable system lost power because of a mechanical problem, and police prepared to mount a daring rescue.
At least a dozen of those stranded in the tramcars were school-age children or babies.
Both cars of the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which shuttles commuters and tourists between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island while offering breathtaking views of the city from up to 250 feet high, stopped moving around 5:15 p.m., stranding about 70 people, said Herb Berman, president of the agency that operates the system.
The tramcars still were stalled after 11 p.m., occasionally swinging gently, while engineers worked to restore power and police and firefighters tried to figure out how to get the people down.
A rescue basket running on diesel and capable of holding up to 10 people was being sent up to the stranded cable cars. One of the tramcars had about 46 passengers plus an operator, the other about 21 passengers and an operator, police said; each can hold about 125 people. No injuries were reported.
Police, who were in contact with both gondolas through cell phone and radio, said the rescue would take several hours, with passengers to be transferred off the stranded cars 10 at a time.
Scores of people gathered on the ground to watch.
The tram system, which opened in 1976 to carry Roosevelt Island residents to and from midtown Manhattan, is the only commuter cable car system in North America, according to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. Web site. It has been featured in movies such as "Spider-Man" and "City Slickers."
It travels 3,100 feet at an average speed of 16 mph in around 5 minutes and has served more than 20 million people, the RIOC site says.
Tramcars on the system stall occasionally, the last time around Labor Day, said Berman, who didn't know the cause of Tuesday's service outage.
Roosevelt Island, which sits in the East River between Manhattan and Queens and is part of the former, is about 2 miles long and about 800 feet wide. About 10,000 people live on the island, which also is accessible by bridge and subway.
© 2006 The Associated Press.