The New Year got off to a terrifying start for nearly two dozen people who spent hours stranded in icy tram cabs dangling above the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico.
Officials rescued 21 hospitality workers from two trams after their rides home from a fancy restaurant were halted over safety concerns in the early morning hours Saturday, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office said.
Those stranded in the gondolas from 2 a.m. to Saturday afternoon were employees of the Sandia Peak Tram and Ten 3, a mountaintop restaurant 10,300 feet above sea level that is accessed by the cable car, according to officials.
Twenty people in one gondola were airlifted out of the first tram and hiked down the mountain with the help of rescue workers by about 1 p.m., officials said. A lone passenger stranded in a second car was rescued by 4 p.m.
Operators had to halt the last gondolas down the mountain Saturday morning because of icing that “affected the emergency cable,” Sandia Peak Tramway General Manager Michael Donovan told KOAT.
“That cable actually dropped down within the system, and it was not safe to operate,” Donovan said. “So, we had to cease operations due to the high winds and the icing and unfortunately stranded.”
The trapped workers did have access to water, food and blankets, according to the report. Low temperatures flirted with the single digits on the top of the mountain as wind gusts hit 46 mph Saturday, according to Accuweather.
Photos posted by Colleen Elvidge, a woman stuck on the first tram, showed the stragglers huddled up in hooded sweatshirts and clutching space blankets.
The 2.7 mile Albuquerque-area tourist attraction and restaurant were closed due to high winds and hazardous conditions, Ten 3 announced on its website.
Sandia Peak Tram had seen similar incidents before. In 2015, 140 people — including a couple that had just gotten engaged — were stranded in the sky for several hours.