SINGAPORE: Thirty-nine people were stranded for more than four hours on the Tiger Sky Tower ride at Sentosa on Saturday night (Aug 12).
Sentosa said operations of the Sky Tower were suspended at about 5.35pm following a mechanical fault. It added that 38 passengers and one operator were in the tower's gondola.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force, in an update on Facebook, said the 38 passengers included four children, and all were doing fine.
"Bottles of water and food were distributed to guests, as engineers from Sky Tower worked to lower the gondola. The capsule also has a mobile toilet," Sentosa's statement said.
"Sentosa Rangers were subsequently called in to assist Sky Tower’s engineers with the manual winching to lower the gondola," Sentosa said. "At 7.10pm, SCDF was activated for assistance and SCDF staff were in the capsule with the passengers to prepare for an evacuation. All passengers are safe in the capsule."
SCDF added that its resources included the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team which had "ascended to the top of the tower before rappelling down to the immobilised passenger cabin, at about 25 meters above the ground". It said that resources were also on standby in case of a height rescue operation.
The 38 passengers and one operator were finally able to disembark at 9.45pm.
"All passengers were able to leave the gondola safely," Sentosa said in a subsequent update.
Sentosa added that the cause of the fault is under investigation, and that the Tiger Sky Tower is closed until further notice.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, bystander Mr Loh, 39, said: "When I came at about 8.15pm, the capsule was already stuck. Within one hour, it moved down twice.
"There's a repair crew on top. I think they are trying to bring the capsule down slowly, 5m each time, instead of rescuing them one by one."
RIDE MAINTENANCE CARRIED OUT EARLIER THAT DAY
Mr Alexander Melchers, director of Sky Tower, told media at the scene that authorities had taken the decision not to evacuate the gondola, but to lower it down "because while the capsule is being used, the passengers were totally and absolutely safe".
Four SCDF officers were in the capsule with the passengers to reassure and assist them and four more were in the motor room, Mr Melchers added.
When asked about the maintenance of the ride, which can carry 55 passengers, he told reporters that ride maintenance had been carried out earlier that morning.
"We have a very strict maintenance regime before we open the ride," he said. "We run all the safety checks and we regularly have a Sky Tower engineer at the Sky Tower at all times during operations. However at this point in time we cannot identify the cause of incident."
He said that Sky Tower would work with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to decide "when we will get the operating permit to continue the operation of the attraction".
"We have taken the decision to suspend the ride until we really know what happened, so that we can ensure that the attraction will (continue) to operate very safely," he said.
In addition, Mr Melchers said passengers will be compensated with the "recovery cost" of making their way home, while those who may have missed a flight after being stranded will be provided with hotel accommodation.
Passengers have also been given full ticket refunds of S$18 for adults and S$12 for children, he added.
CAPSULE "DIDN'T SEEM TO MOVE FOR HOURS"
Eyewitness Mrs Lee appeared anxious as she said her friend's daughter - a Japanese on holiday in Singapore - was stuck on the ride "since about 5pm plus". The 40-year-old said she wasn't concerned at first, but got increasingly worried as "the capsule didn't seem to move for hours".
"But we're fine now," said Mrs Lee, with the Japanese girl next to her.
In a post on Twitter, Jaylin Sam claimed to have been stuck on the ride and said it had stopped at 5.35pm.
At 8.25pm, Jaylin Sam said they were "still stuck" on the Tiger Sky Tower. Replying to Channel NewsAsia, she added that biscuits and water had been provided to passengers and that they were safe.
When asked if there was a delay in calling SCDF, Mr Melchers said: “We have a clear operating procedure when such incidents happen. We will alert the Sentosa rangers first and we try to rectify the situation. After one hour, if the Sky Tower with the rangers are unable to rectify the problem, SCDF will be notified.”
Located at 41 Imbiah Road, the Tiger Sky Tower stands 131m above sea level and is Singapore's tallest observatory tower, said the Sentosa website. The attraction involves a seven-minute rotating gondola ride that ascends to the top of the tower.
This is not the first time that passengers have been trapped while using the ride. In June 2010, 36 people were stuck for more than two hours at the 30-metre mark due to a mechanical fault.
A month later in July, the ride was suspended again after 11 passengers were trapped for almost an hour. They were rescued by staff who reached them via a central stairway within the tower.
BCA ISSUES CLOSURE ORDER
A day after the incident, BCA issued a closure order, suspending the ride from operation.
As part of the closure order, the operator of Tiger Sky Tower is required to appoint a specialist professional engineer in amusement ride engineering to investigate the cause of the incident, said BCA in an update on Monday.
It added that the operator has until the end of August to submit the investigation report, and that it must carry out the necessary repairs recommended by the engineer.
The ride can only resume operations after the repair works are inspected, and "functional tests" conducted by the engineer who will submit a report by mid September to the BCA for it to give the go-ahead.