People are questioning why SeaWorld San Diego visitors were trapped on a ride for four hours Sunday.
The Skytower lost power, stranding 48 people – including 46 park guests and two SeaWorld employees – about 220 feet above the ground.
“They were stuck at the top, then they had it drop down slowly. They had to physically push the doors to the side so they could open the doors and let them out,” witness William Zelaya said.
A teenage boy was taken to the hospital for anxiety, according to fire officials. Witnesses saw paramedics give oxygen to some of the riders.
The San Diego Fire Department was on stand-by as SeaWorld technicians worked to restore power. The fire department’s Technical Rescue Team trains at SeaWorld every year in case of an emergency on the Skytower ride, fire officials said.
Some people are asking why firefighters didn’t intervene and rescue the riders, instead of waiting for the ride to be fixed.
"An emergency evacuation rappelling procedure for the 46 guests would have also taken several hours to complete, which would have been far longer than it took to restore power and bring the capsule with all the guests safely to the ground,” SeaWorld spokesman David Koontz said in a statement. “Again, the emergency evacuation is a method of last resort."
The passengers were never in danger and had water and snacks, Koontz said, so an emergency rescue wasn’t required.
Technical Rescue Team Fire Captain Michael De Guzman said it would have taken the team an hour to set up, then an additional 15 minutes to rappel each passenger to the ground.
"We would send rescuers to the top. They would rappel down to the top of the car, enter to the car. The car has two levels, and we would extract the people down through the hatches. Through the hatches we would send ropes, and we would lower the victims down to the ground," De Guzman explained.
People who were stuck on the ride received return admission and other park amenities.
The cause of the power failure is under investigation. The Skytower, which raises riders hundreds of feet in the air and slowly spins to show panoramic views of San Diego, was closed on Monday.