Six people trapped on SkyWheel for hours

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 9:55 AM CST
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What was supposed to be a joyride took a dramatic turn for one family Thursday night in Panama City Beach.

Six tourists found themselves stranded in a SkyWheel boxcar more than 180 feet dangling in the air.

“We experienced a power outage in the area, and we think that’s the part of the causation for this incident,” Panama City Beach Fire Department Deputy Chief Justin Busch said.

SkyWheel management told fire officials nothing like this has ever happened before at any other SkyWheel locations.

Therefore, it became apparent to fire crews they would have to go up there themselves but not without the help of some neighbors.

”They called for a crane and they needed high angle rescue techniques... that’s the kind of training we have at South Walton Fire with our Squad 3 Unit,” South Walton Fire District Deputy Chief Glen Kuehner said.

It wasn’t until a couple of hours after the initial dispatch call at 7:30, crews were able to set up the crane and make their way to the top.

Then they realized the mission was going to be more complicated than they originally planned.

”We thought we were going to have a fairly simple rescue. [The wind] added a little complexity in trying to maneuver the cart to get access to those folks but we were successfully able to put a rescuer on top,” Busch said.

Soon enough, the boxcar’s doors were opened and the arms inside reached out for help.

Two by two, their feet touched the ground once again.

Fire officials said it took about six hours total to get everyone out.

They also say no one was injured when the SkyWheel initially stopped, nor were the tourists ever in danger during the rescue.

The cause of the SkyWheel malfunction is under investigation.

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