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19 people rescued from Skyfari aerial ride at Southwick’s Zoo

Zoogoers were suspended over animal habitats after officials halted the Skyfari ride due to an oil leak.

Nineteen people were rescued Friday afternoon after getting trapped for an hour-and-a-half on an aerial ride at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon.

Around 2:42 p.m., the zoo’s Skyfari Sky Ride, which is similar to a ski lift, stopped mid-ride after zoo officials discovered a small oil leak in the machinery, according to the zoo.

When responders arrived, they counted 19 people stranded in eight cars, Mendon Fire Chief Bill Kessler told WCVB. The riders, adults and children, hovered over animal habitats while zoo employees and fire officials worked to remove them from the ride, according to officials.

People on the ground tossed water to the riders as they sat in the midday heat, WCVB reported.

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Responders helped guests exit the ride using cherry pickers with buckets and a fire ladder. All guests were back on the ground by 4:15 p.m., according to officials. No injuries were reported. 

The 300-acre zoo is home to a variety of big cats, including lions, Bengal tigers, leopards, and cheetahs, as well as several other exotic animals. According to the zoo’s website, the Skyfari ride offers guests “a bird’s eye view of the African Plains, Deer Forest, chimpanzees, alligator, and more!”

The Mendon Fire Department posted about the rescue on its Facebook, saying, “from our arrival, we worked closely with the staff at Southwick’s which helped to get the job accomplished safely and quickly.”

Along with help from Mendon police, fire officials received mutual aid from fire departments in Uxbridge, Bellingham, Blackstone, Upton, and Woonsocket.

Southwick’s Zoo posted a message about the incident on its Facebook page.

The statement said: 

“As you may be aware, guests this afternoon at Southwick’s Zoo were inconvenienced when it was necessary to close the Skyfari Sky Ride. Everyone on the ride was removed safely and no injuries were incurred. There was a small oil leak, and to err on the side of caution, we chose to close the ride for the safety of all. Guests were assisted off the ride by our trained employees and the Mendon Fire Department. We are so grateful for our employees and senior management who are trained in emergency evacuations as well as the Mendon Fire Department for responding to the situation. The Southwick family is happy that the day ended well for all.”

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