- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — A normally five-minute cable car ride turned into a nearly 12-hour ordeal for dozens of people who had be rescued early yesterday after two cars lost power over the East River.

The passengers from one car were plucked one by one and transferred to a rescue gondola shortly before dawn, while those in the second car, at the edge of Manhattan, were taken out with a crane.

At least a dozen of the 69 passengers on the Roosevelt Island Tramway were school-age children or babies who had boarded the tram at the start of rush hour Tuesday evening.

One young passenger described the mood in his car as almost festive, with people singing and telling jokes. Police delivered food, water and diapers to the passengers while they waited.

The boy’s mother, Robbyn Maier, said her 12-year-old son, Dax, was going to Roosevelt Island to play tennis when he got stuck. She talked to him by cell phone.

“He’s like a trouper through it all,” she said. “He’s really a little hero.”

But, she added, “He’s not coming this way to tennis anymore.”

Of course, there were problems spending that much time in a cable car.

“Well, there was this one kid who peed in a cup,” Dax told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

He said he told himself not to look down while being rescued.

“When I was climbing out the window, I was just a little scared, because one, what if I miss it, two, what if I flip, and I might fall into the river, so I just kept looking up,” he told CNN.

Officials were trying to determine what caused the 5:15 p.m. power outage on the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which offers breathtaking views of the city from up to 250 feet high and also a commuter route for island residents, said Herb Berman, president of the agency that operates the system.

Tram cars on the system can hold about 125 people and stall occasionally, the last time around Labor Day, Mr. Berman said. This time, the main and backup power systems failed, police said.

Lynn Krogh, spokeswoman for Gov. George E. Pataki, said the state Department of Labor would investigate before allowing service to resume.

About 10,000 people live on Roosevelt Island, which also is accessible by bridge and subway. The island in the East River is about 2 miles long and 800 feet wide.

The tram system, which opened in 1976, is the only commuter cable car system in North America, according to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. Web site. The trams travel 3,100 feet in about 5 minutes at an average speed of 16 mph, the Web site says.

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