Teenagers trapped on Ocean Park ride
By BRENDAN DELFINO
SIX terrified teenagers were trapped 26 metres from the ground in a stalled Ocean Park ride for about 21/2 hours yesterday, sparking criticism over delays in the rescue efforts.
The youths cried out for help after the Eagle amusement ride, which lifts passengers 31 metres into the air in orbiting gondolas, failed to return to the ground at about 11.30 am.
Staff were unable to rectify the mechanical fault after almost an hour. The police and the Fire Services Department were then called and they arrived with booms and ladders shortly after.
The five boys and a girl, aged 13 and 14, from St Matthew's Lutheran School in Ngau Tau Kok, had to be comforted from ground level by park staff as they clutched safety bars before being plucked one by one from the ride by officers.
The last youngster was rescued at 1.55 pm.
Electrical and Mechanical Services Department acting chief engineer Law Yu-wing said although park staff seemed to follow rescue procedures, he questioned the time it took fire officers to be alerted.
'As yet I am not sure of the reasons but they shouldn't have taken so long,' he said. 'If the staff cannot rescue the passengers immediately then they should call the police. We are still unsure how the process went and we have officers investigating.' Park spokesman Shirley Chung Bik-cheung said its engineers were inspecting the German-manufactured ride, one of two new rides which opened in December.
She said all rides were checked daily before customers were allowed into the park and went through a vigorous maintenance check every week.
'[In the] morning, checking engineers found no problem with the ride, this is the first major ride failure we have had here at Ocean Park,' Ms Chung said.
'The ride was functioning normally but when it went up to 26 metres it didn't come back down so the operator stopped it and called the Fire Services.' Ms Chung said the Eagle was capable of carrying up to 56 people but bad weather yesterday kept attendances slightly lower at the park and only six people were on the ride when it broke down.
In a statement issued last night, the park management said an initial investigation indicated the brake release system was likely to be at fault. 'The brakes did not appear to disengage properly, thus rendering the gondolas to stay atop,' it said.
The statement also said an investigation report would be completed in about two weeks.
Deputy chairman of the Legislative Council Recreation and Culture Panel, Albert Chan Wai-yip, was appalled by the length of time it took to rescue the youths.
'The paramount interest is the safety of the guests, especially kids that age,' he said.
'It must have been an incredibly frightening experience for them, with possible psychological effects. Perhaps they should review their procedures so the event does not occur again.' Government inspectors were last night examining the ride and its maintenance records, which Mr Law said had so far complied with regulations in the Amusement Rides Ordinance.
Park management said six mechanical failures have affected its rides over the past three years.