Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Elisha Fieldstadt

Sixteen people, including children, were rescued after spending hours stranded on a malfunctioning SeaWorld San Diego gondola ride Monday night.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department was called to the Bayside Skyride, which crosses over Mission Bay, at 7:20 p.m.

The ride, which was carrying 16 people in five cars, had abruptly stopped, and SeaWorld engineers were unable to get it restarted. At least seven children were among the stranded.

"We were clutching for our lives and didn't know if we were about to drop or what was going on," said Jonathan Sherr, who was on the ride with his son.

Crews started lowering people to boats below the ride about two hours into the operation, according to fire department officials. The last two people weren't rescued until four hours after the ride had stalled.

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman José Ysea said crew members were "basically rappelling across the wires" to get to the people in the gondola cars. No one was injured during the rescue, officials said.

A SeaWorld statement said the ride halted due to "an unusual gust of significant wind." Sherr said the wind gusts made the cars and cables shake violently.

"We were honestly just prepared for the worst," Sherr said. "Ever seen the 'Final Destination' series? That's what was going through our minds."

Sherr said, initially, communication with park staff was limited.

"We got very vague answers from ride operators, who refused to get us in touch with the supervisor and say that there's no supervisor on staff," he said, adding that he and his son were "freezing" during the ordeal.

SeaWorld's statement said each gondola car had a blanket for guests, who park employees were communicating with over an intercom.

The statement said the ride would be inspected before it re-opens.

Rescue officials and the SeaWorld statement said first responders train at the park annually for a situation like the one that happened Monday.