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People stuck on Wyler Aerial Tramway comforted by ranger trapped with them

People stuck on Wyler Aerial Tramway comforted by ranger trapped with them
Monday, June 9, 2014 - 8:06pm

Thirty one people who found themselves either trapped on top of the Franklin Mountains or stuck inside the Wyler Aerial Tramway Sunday night.

What started as a nightmare ended with a peaceful rescue. People stuck inside the gondola were reassured everything would be ok by the park ranger trapped inside with them.

"He was very gracious, he kept us informed," said Robert Green.

Green is visiting El Paso from Amarillo. On Sunday Green and his family decided to go up the mountain via the tramway.

"This is the second time I have been on the tram," he said.

They were on their way back down when things took a turn for the worst.

The tramway had an equipment malfunction, leaving Green and 5 other people stuck in a gondola halfway down the mountain.

"We knew once it stopped it might be a little while before the get it going again,” he said. “It did get a little warm."

Green sent us a video of the exact moment when the gondola was far enough down to use a ladder to get out.

Crews had to manually bring it down.

He said things were actually rather calm inside the tram, only because there was a ranger inside with them letting them know what was going on.

"We would have been much more concerned if he hadn't been there to keep us informed as to what was going on, what was happening,” Green said. “I'm sure we would have been much more concerned if he had not been there. His presence there really was a wonderful thing."

Battalion Chief for the El Paso Fire Department, Kevin Mende, said he has never had to rescue anyone from the tram before, but his crew still prepares for any situation.

"We do exercises up on the mountain. We do strength training exercise,” Mende said. “We learn how to gain access to certain points.”

Mende said the rescue from the gondola was easy compared to getting the 25 people from the gift shop.

Those people had to walk down in the dark before meeting a vehicle half way down to take them to their cars.

"Our biggest concern, being with the heat we have had was hydration,” Mende said. “Someone going up the tram probably isn't thinking i need water going up the mountain. We were supplying water, making sure they were hydrated."

Green said the experience didn't turn him away, he's eager to try the tramway again.

"I would go up there today if it were running," he said.

Chief Mende said the last person was down the mountain at 10:30 last night. No one was injured or taken to the hospital.

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