San Diego

‘I Felt My Heart Stop': Family Trapped on SeaWorld Ride Recalls Cold, Windy Night

One of the families trapped inside a SeaWorld San Diego ride Monday night spoke exclusively with NBC 7 about their time dangling in a gondola above Mission Bay for more than five hours.

Naomi Ince and her family visited the theme park from Descanso when they became stuck inside the gondolas for Bayside Skyride, along with a dozen other guests.

“I just thought it was going to be one last ride before we go home, but it didn't turn out that way,” Naomi said.

Naomi Ince was stuck inside one gondola with her nine-year-old daughter, Katie. Some distance away, her 12-year-old son, Zach Ince, and 11-year-old niece, Kim Sanchez, were trapped in another gondola.

“The cart was shaking, and it was really windy,” Sanchez told NBC 7.

A large gust of wind tripped a circuit breaker that stopped the ride, San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Battalion Chief Robert Logan said.

Naomi Ince said she first was worried about the ride because SeaWorld employees asked her family to ride in two separate gondolas.

“A couple of times my daughter was crying – I had to calm her down and tell her it’s OK, just a little longer, they’re coming and will get us,” Naomi Ince said. “It was frustrating.”

"I don’t know even why SeaWorld had the thing open," Sanchez said. "They should’ve just told us to walk out because it was windy – we could’ve fallen off, something could’ve happened. And something did!"

Sanchez said she and her cousin crouched down on the seats and did not move for hours out of fear of moving the gondola.

The gondola was "rocking back and forth for at least two hours," she said. "Just rocking back and forth. We just tried to sit as still as possible, not trying to move."

As for Zach Ince and Sanchez, Naomi Ince said she was worried because the two were without an adult during the rescue efforts. “I felt my heart stop.”

“My son and niece are underage and somewhere else where I couldn’t comfort them or keep them warm. Can’t even imagine other parents trying to keep their kids calm,” Naomi Ince said.

After three hours, roughly half of the guests had been rescued. But it wasn’t until the five-and-a-half-hour mark until Zach Ince, the final passenger, was rescued.

“I was watching everyone get rescued, and I was thinking in my mind, ‘How are they going to get to me?’” Zach Ince said. “I was so scared to move because I didn't want the cart to fall.”

“When he got down to us, he was white and purple, freezing, shivering – we put blankets all over them to get warm,” Naomi Ince said.

The mother and aunt said she was thankful for the firefighters and paramedics “who risked their lives and got up and saved us.”

Though, Naomi Ince admitted that she felt partially responsible.

“And I feel bad because I’m the one that said, ‘Lets go on this one last ride before we go home,’” Naomi Ince said.

Logan said crews were “slow and methodical” because a fall from that height can be “catastrophic.”

Of the 16 passengers trapped across five gondolas, seven were minors.

No injuries were reported, and all guests were reported to be safe once returned to land.

SeaWorld said it will conduct a thorough investigation of the ride before it is back in use.

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