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Police rescue stranded N.Y. tram passengers

All 69 people trapped for hours in two cable cars that were suspended above the East River after losing power have been rescued, police said early Wednesday.
Roosevelt Island Tram Rescue
Police late Tuesday night rescue trapped passengers of a stalled cable car that had been en route to Roosevelt Island in New York City.Stephen Chernin / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

All 69 people trapped for hours in two cable cars that were suspended hundreds of feet above the East River after losing power have been rescued, police said Wednesday.

The passengers became stranded around 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, and police worked through the night to free them. Passengers in one of the dangling cars were plucked one by one and hoisted onto a gondola, while those in the second car were removed in an industrial crane and bucket.

The rescue effort ended around 5 a.m. Wednesday. No injuries were reported.

At least a dozen of those stranded were school-age children or babies. Police delivered food, water and diapers to the passengers.

The cause of the outage of the Roosevelt Island Tramway cars was not known, said Herb Berman, president of the agency that operates the system, which offer breathtaking views of the city from up to 250 feet high.

One of the tramcars had 46 passengers plus an operator, the other had 21 passengers and an operator, police said. Each car can hold about 125 people.

Tramcars on the system stall occasionally, the last time around Labor Day, said Berman. Police said both the main and backup power systems failed.

Lynn Krogh, spokeswoman for Gov. George Pataki, said the state Department of Labor would conduct a full investigation and review of the incident and the tram before service was allowed to resume.

Positive mood in the trams
Robbyn Maier said her 12-year-old son, Dax Maier, was going to Roosevelt Island to play tennis when he got stuck. She talked to him by cell phone.

“He’s like a trouper through it all,” she said. “He’s really a little hero.”

Commuters on the Roosevelt Island Tramwa
Commuters on the Roosevelt Island Tramway sit stuck over 1st Avenue after mechanical problems caused it to loose power and shut down stranding about 80 people in two different trams as they were on their way home to Roosevelt Island 18 April 2006. 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. AFP PHOTO Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)Timothy A. Clary / AFP

Once safely on the ground, Dax Maier said he told himself not to look down while being rescued. He said the mood in his car was almost festive, with people singing and telling jokes.

“Sometimes you can find great people in New York,” he said.

The tram system, which opened in 1976, is the only commuter cable car system in North America, according to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. Web site.

The system has been featured in such movies as “Spider-Man” and “City Slickers.” It travels 3,100 feet in about 5 minutes at an average speed of 16 mph, the Web site says.

Roosevelt Island, which lies in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, is about 2 miles long and 800 feet wide. About 10,000 people live on the island, which also is accessible by bridge and subway.