More than 20 rescued from cable cars after spending first hours of 2022 trapped

The group were stuck overnight on Friday (Picture: Reuters/AP/Facebook)

More than 21 people have been rescued from two American cable cars, where they spent their first hours of the New Year.

Helicopters and rescue crews using ropes managed to get to the group in New Mexico, after an iced-over cable caused their cars to get stuck.

Saturday’s rescue came after one group of 20 in one gondola, and a single person in another, were stranded overnight high up in the Sandia Mountains overlooking Albuquerque.

Robert Arguellas, a Bernalillo County Fire Department spokesperson, said early on Saturday afternoon that crews first rescued the 20 people from one car and several hours later got to the 21st.

All of those involved were employees of the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway or a mountaintop restaurant, and the 20 in one car were being ferried down to the base of the mountains at the end of their workdays, Mr Arguellas said.

The other employee had been heading up the mountain to provide overnight security when the tram system shut down on Friday night due to ice, he added.

There were no reported injuries among those stranded – but Mr Arguellas said they were ‘more just pretty frustrated.’

Rescuers had to move the first car to a nearby support tower more than halfway up the mountain.

Meanwhile, search and rescue personnel hiked to the area and climbed the tower to deliver blankets and other supplies to those inside the heated car.

Mr Arguellas explained that search and rescue personnel used ropes and other equipment to lower the stranded employees about 85 feet (26 meters) to the ground over several hours.

They were then escorted to a nearby landing zone in the steep and rocky terrain where the tower was located and then ferried by helicopter several at a time to the base of the mountains.

A passenger is lowered from a Sandia Peak Tramway car (Picture: AP)
Passengers were then ferried down the mountain (Picture: AP)
The helicopter helped the operation in New Mexico (Picture: Reuters)
No one was injured but the group were ‘pretty frustrated’ (Picture: Reuters)

But the second car was higher up the mountain and at too high a location to lower the final person by rope.

Instead, the tram system was able to inch the second car down the cable to the rescue site at the support tower.

Rescuers then helped the 21st person as they had with the others.

Brian Coon, a tramway system manager, said there was an unusually fast accumulation of ice on one of the cables that made it droop below the tram, making it dangerous to keep going, KOB-TV reported.

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