Restaurant workers who had finished their New Years Eve night shift at a mountaintop restaurant in New Mexico, were forced to spend their first night of 2022 huddled together in a cable car after it became stuck in the middle of the night as it was transporting them back down the 10,300ft mountain.
Guests had all left the TEN 3 restaurant high up in Sandia Mountains in the early hours of Saturday morning leaving just 20 workers to be ferried back down to the ground to return to their homes.
But just as they began their 15 minutes descent, the wintry conditions worsened forcing the aeriel tramway to come to a halt.
After being stuck on the frozen cable car for hours, the workers were finally rappelled to safety 85feet below, one by one
A rescue helicopter works to help passengers who were stuck overnight on a Sandia Peak Tramway on Saturday
People trapped on stuck tram bundle up with help of metallic blankets as they await rescue having spent the night on board
1.) Two cable cars become stuck at 2am after icy conditions force tramway to be halted 2.) 20 restaurant workers are stuck on one car with 1 security guard stranded on the other 3.) Supplies and blankets are delivered up the mountain by hikers at 8am on Saturday morning 4.) Those stranded are rappelled 85feet down to ground from the cable cars on Saturday afternoon 5.) All 21 are finally rescued by helicopter late on Saturday afternoon
Stranded, and with no realistic way to get down to the ground 85 feet beneath them, the workers were forced to wait until daylight before a daring rescue attempt could be made.
At first light on Saturday, New Mexico search and rescue crews used ropes and helicopter to rescue all 21 people who had become stranded in the two tram cars after an iced-over cable caused the cars to become completely stuck.
Lt. Robert Arguellas a Bernalillo County Fire Department spokesman, said early on Saturday afternoon that crews first managed to rescued 20 people stranded in one car and several hours later rescued a 21st person who was stranded by themselves in a second car.
All the people on the two cars were employees of the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway or the mountaintop restaurant, TEN 3, Arguellas said.
The other employee had been heading up the mountain was doing so to provide overnight security when the tram system suddenly shut down on New Years Eve due to icing, Arguellas explained.
20 restaurant workers were stuck on Sandia Peak Tramway following their New Years Eve service on Friday night
A group of 20 employees had no choice but to wait until a daylight rescue attempt could be made due to the wintry conditions
Restaurant workers were forced to sleep on the floor until help arrived as they remained stranded in the cable car
The cable car was able to reach a support tower from where the restaurant workers were able to rappel 85 feet down
After being stranded overnight in the frozen cable car, rescuers were able to slowly winch down the trapped workers
A picture of a computer display from the rescue helicopter shows the gondola and the support tower where those waiting to be rescued were waiting
Images from the rescue helicopter shows those waiting to be rescued on the ground, left, and the cable car stuck next to the support tower, right
The stranded gondola can be seen on the left of this video and graphic from a rescue helicopter
There was no report of any injuries among those who had become stranded, Arguellas said. ‘More just pretty frustrated.’
But it was quite the task in order to rescue those who were stranded in mid-air.
To reach the 20 people who were in the one stuck car, operators were able to move it to a nearby support tower more than halfway up the mountain, with search and rescue personnel then hiking up the mountain early on Saturday morning before climbing the tower to deliver blankets and other supplies to those inside the heated car, Arguellas said.
Over the course of several hours, search and rescue personnel then used ropes and other equipment to lower the stranded employees about 85 feet to the ground before escorting them to a nearby landing zone in the steep and rocky terrain where the tower was located.
The tramway completely froze up after wintry conditions became so severe it became dangerous to operate the cable car
At one stage it was extremely difficult to see the cable cars with visibility much reduced
The two trams (right) were left immobilized because of icy conditions, officials said
A rescue helicopter can be seen racing to pluck 20 people who were trapped aboard struck tram
Daylight brought a clearer view of the mountain on which the 20 restaurant workers and security guard were stranded
Imagery from a rescue helicopter shows that when conditions cleared a mission to reach the stranded restaurant workers was on track
Images shot by the rescue helicopter shows one of the first responders, left, while a camera is able to assist, right
The 20 people were then ferried by helicopter, several at a time, to the base of the mountain.
Dramatic video from a livestream captured those trapped on the tramway rappelling from the disabled tram to the ground and then moving to a spot on the mountain where a helicopter could pick them up.
Arguellas said the second car with the one employee aboard was higher up the mountain and at location where the car was too high above the ground to lower people by ropes.
But the tram system was able to inch the second car down the cable to the rescue site at the support tower, and rescuers then used ropes to lower the 21st person as was done with the others, Arguellas said.
Rescue helicopter delivers those trapped aboard tram to safety Saturday
Members of the Bernalillo County Sheriff Search and Rescue team assist the people who were rescued after being stuck overnight in a tramway gondola at Sandia Peak near Albuquerque, New Mexico
Restaurant workers crouch down as they leave the rescue helicopter which helped bring them to safety
The restaurant workers can be seen getting ready to enter the County Sheriff’s vehicles after their all night ordeal
Members of the Bernalillo County Sheriff Search and Rescue team assist the people who were rescued after being stuck overnight in a tramway gondola
The helicopter had to make several journies up to where the workers had become stranded
The workers were ferried to safety as they were brought down to the ground by helicopter having spent the night in the air
The rescue helicopter is seen sitting in a parking lot after it made the journey to pick up those who had been stranded
Another of the restaurant workers is sent in the direction of safety following their all-nighter
It had been a long night and an even longer wait for rescuers to arrive at the New Mexico cable car
Alex Garcia jumped on her boyfriend as he was brought down safely using a Bernalillo County Sheriff’s helicopter as passengers were rescued on Saturday. Garcia’s boyfriend works at the restaurant atop of the Sandia Crest as a cook
A passenger is rescued Saturday after a Sandia Peak Tramway car that was stranded overnight on New Year’s Eve
A Bernalillo County Sheriff helicopter assists in a rescue operation after people stuck overnight in a tramway gondola were rescued from Sandia Peak near Albuquerque
Brian Coon, a tramway system manager, said there was an unusually fast accumulation of ice on one of the cables that made it droop below the tram, making it dangerous to keep going and causing the cable cars to stop moving at around 2am.
Those rescued were workers at TEN 3 restaurant, located at the top of the mountain which bills itself as America’s most breathtaking new dining experience on its website. The tram cars are supplied with food and water, as well as emergency heating blankets.
‘Been stuck in Tram since 9p … rescue happening soon,’ Colleen Elvidge posted on social media Saturday morning, along with photos showing weary passengers in hoodies trying to keep warm with silver space blankets.
Those trapped were in good condition despite having their festivities ruined, said Michael Donavan, general manager at Sandia Peak Tramway, located outside of Albuquerque.
‘All 21 people and rescuers are off the mountain with no injuries. We want to thank BCSO, NM Search and Rescue Teams, NM State Police, and Sandia Peak Aerial Tram personnel for their assistance in making this a successful rescue. Way to start the New Year off right!!’, Bernalillo County Fire Department tweeted on Saturday afternoon.
Rising from the hustle and bustle of Albuquerque, the Sandia Aerial Tramway travels up the 10,378-foot crest of the Sandia Mountains. The journey takes 15 minutes
The restaurant workers would normally have a very simple commute in a 15 minute gondala ride back down to the ground
Spectacular views covering 11,000 sq miles and be witnesses from the TEN 3 restaurant at the top of the mountain
Those rescued were workers at TEN 3 restaurant, located at the top of the mountain which bills itself as America’s most breathtaking new dining experience on its website. Pictured, a view from the top of mountain