Search and rescue crews have used helicopters and ropes to rescue 21 people stranded overnight when an iced-over cable caused two tram cars to get stuck high up in the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico.
Lieutenant Robert Arguellas from the Bernalillo County Fire Department said early Saturday afternoon that crews first rescued 20 people stranded in one car and several hours later rescued a 21st person stranded by themselves in a second car.
All the people on the two cars were employees of the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway or a mountaintop restaurant, and the 20 in one car were being ferried down to the base of the mountains at the end of their shifts.
The other employee had been heading up the mountain to provide overnight security when the tram system shut down due to ice, Arguellas said.
There were no reported injuries among those stranded, Arguellas said. “More just pretty frustrated.”
To rescue the 20 people in the one car, operators were able to move it to a nearby support tower more than halfway up the mountain. Search and rescue personnel then hiked to the area and climbed the tower to deliver blankets and other supplies to those inside the heated car.
Ropes and other equipment were used to lower the stranded employees about 26 metres to the ground before escorting them to a nearby landing zone in the steep and rocky terrain.
The 20 people were then ferried by helicopter several at a time to the base of the mountains, Arguellas said.
The second car with the one employee aboard was higher up the mountain and too high above the ground to lower the passenger 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 again used ropes to lower the 21st person, Arguellas said.