Zoo: Gondola ride problem caused by broken driveshaft

INDIANAPOLIS - Firefighters were called to the Indianapolis Zoo Sunday after two gondolas full of passengers became stuck on the skyline ride.

The Indianapolis Fire Department was called at 5 p.m. after six people became stranded 35 feet in the air on the Indianapolis Zoo Skyline ride, which travels around the outer portion of the orangutan exhibit.

Bob Wilken was in the car behind his family when the ride suddenly stopped around 5 p.m. They were about to take the 8 minute ride on the 1200 foot track that's 50 feet at its highest.

"We were in the next car to go," Wilken said. "We were a little nervous, but we had every confidence that they would get out OK."

Firefighters were able to safely remove all six people from the ride by 7 p.m.

"We do know that we have a lot of mechanical back-ups and redundancies in the system so that even one little trigger will cause the brakes to go into effect," said Zoo Spokeswoman Judy Palermo.

Zoo officials said the company that designed and built the ride will be on-site to determine what happened.

The ride is inspected daily by a security and safety team and the Zoo said that state inspectors were notified after it malfunctioned. In July, a sensor on the track was moved after it briefly halted the ride.

"They kept us well-informed about what was going on and who was coming," Wilken said.

Zoo officials announced Wednesday that the driveshaft in the gearbox broke, which caused the ride to stop and left visitors stranded.

The ride manufacturer sent a technical team to the zoo to conduct testing and inspections. The zoo will meet with technicians on Friday to discuss what can be done to prevent it from happening again.
 

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