21 people rescued after a freezing night stranded in air vehicles

The restaurant workers got into the air tram around noon. 21 New Year’s Eve, their guards finished, their mood festive, even with the whipping wind and heavy snow. Amber Santos was standing next to the trash cans they had carried inside the car, which smelled of leftover food from Ti 3, a restaurant at the top of Sandia Peak close to Albuquerque (Italy)

Almost at home, she thought when she noticed that the tram system that drives people to the restaurant 10,300 feet above sea level is starting to move.

Twenty people were in one car and one person was in another – 19 employees of Ten 3 and two employees of the tram system – who were on their way home to celebrate 2022.

Then, near the second tower of the tram, the cars stopped.

At 22, nothing.

At 23.00, still no movement.

“There’s something wrong,” Mrs Santos recalled, telling her colleagues.

Finally, the countdown to 2022, for the stranded, had become a countdown until their rescue.

It would take more than 12 hours.

As temperatures dropped into the mid-20s, passengers resorted to rationing Life Savers rubber and six bottles of water while spending the first few hours of 2022 waiting for rescue crews to arrive.

By Saturday afternoon, all the stranded passengers had been rescued. No one was injured, officials said.

Spencer Moreland, a New Mexico Search and Rescue incident commander who provided about 30 volunteers who helped with the rescue, got a call from New Mexico State Police at 6 p.m. 03.00. He was at the scene at 4 in the morning, and an hour later, rescuers had begun the more than four-hour hike up the steep terrain in a snowstorm.

Rescuers had to get to a tower, climb up to the tram and set up a rope system to lower people to safety, he said. From there, they hiked with the passengers about 100 yards to a landing site, where a helicopter flung them away a few at a time.

Rescuers battled treacherous conditions, said Larry Koren, the pilot who flew it stranded to safety by landing his helicopter on a narrow ridge.

Mr. The choir, which is also the deputy sheriff of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office, said members of the sheriff’s office, along with other local officials, had trained with the tram operator for just such a situation.

Such a rescue was one that they had considered but never executed, he said, adding: “And we never expected it would be for 21 people in a snowstorm.”

Michael Donovan, general manager for Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, said wind and ice had caused an emergency cable to cross another cable, preventing the trams from reaching their destination.

He said rescuers were lucky that visibility had been improved, enabling a rescue helicopter. Otherwise, the stranded crew members might have had to hike in safety, a hike they were not equipped for.

“Some of the chefs wore Crocs,” he said.

In the beginning, getting caught in a tram for New Year’s Eve had been welcomed as a fun but dangerous adventure, Ms Santos said. Her Instagram videos show her and the others shouting “Happy New Year!” at midnight.

But then the temperature started to drop. At 12:57 it was 35 degrees. Passengers picked up emergency blankets stored in the car and broke hard pretzels and Life Savers gums out of their backpacks.

Credit…Amber Santos

“Everyone is quiet,” Santos said, 31. “It’s dark. It’s dog cold. We’re freezing or shaking because the little safety blankets are not keeping warm.”

She added: “You just start thinking, ‘Is this how I’m going to die, in a little box with my colleagues?’

The wind swayed the car like a playground swing. At 3:49 a.m., they were gathered, mostly silent, but still supportive of each other, Ms. Santos said. It was 24 degrees and she continued to shake, unable to sleep.

She tried to think positive thoughts: The car at least had a built-in toilet. And at least they could communicate with the tram system workers through a speaker on the car. The workers told them there was help on the way. But at 4 a.m. she thought she was going to die, she said.

“You just felt hopeless,” Ms. said. Santos. “You’re cold. You’m sorry. You just want to be home on New Year’s with your friends and do what other people do.”

When rescue crews finally arrived, she immediately reached for a blanket and a water bottle. After rapping to the ground, which she said was “actually very exciting”, she boarded the helicopter, was checked by doctors and then went to her car.

She opened Instagram once more and recorded a message.

“I have literally no words for today,” she said. “I’m literally out of words. This has been awful.”

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