21 people rescued after being trapped overnight on New Mexico tramway

The passengers had been stuck on the Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque.

January 1, 2022, 8:11 PM

Twenty-one people have been rescued after becoming trapped overnight in tram cars on the Sandia Peak Tramway in Albuquerque, New Mexico, authorities said.

Tramway operators had to halt the cars Friday night because of "severe icing due to the moisture and cold temperature that affected the emergency cable," Sandia Peak Tramway general manager Michael Donovan told ABC Albuquerque affiliate KOAT.

The tram cars were carrying employees of the tramway and a restaurant atop Sandia Peak on the last ride of the night, according to KOAT. One passenger said on social media she had been stranded since 9 p.m. Friday.

PHOTO: Rescue efforts are underway as 20 people have been trapped overnight in tram cars at Sandia Peak Tramway, in Albuquerque, N.M., Jan. 1, 2022.
Rescue efforts are underway as 20 people have been trapped overnight in tram cars at Sandia Peak Tramway, in Albuquerque, N.M., Jan. 1, 2022.

New Mexico Search and Rescue was notified of the stranded passengers shortly before 3 a.m., according to incident commander Spenser Moreland. It took several hours for rescuers to hike to the site and work on an evacuation plan, he said.

"We did an assessment of everybody on the tram, determined they were fine and doing well, given the conditions," Moreland said during a press briefing Saturday, adding that responders were also able to provide them with food, water and blankets.

Twenty people stranded in one of the tramway's two cars were eventually lowered using a rope system and then evacuated from the ground via a helicopter two to four at a time, authorities said. The sheriff's office livestreamed the rescue operation for over an hour.

Shortly after 1 p.m. local time, Bernalillo County fire officials updated that all 20 passengers in the car had been rescued.

An employee in the second tram car was also subsequently rescued, and all stranded passengers are now "safely at base," the Bernalillo County fire department said in a Twitter update posted before 4 p.m. local time.

High winds and visibility had impeded the rescue operations, authorities said.

"This is not something that we hadn't kind of planned on at some point," Bernalillo County Under Sheriff Larry Koren told reporters. "We've done a lot of training with all of our search and rescue stakeholders here in the past regarding the tram operations."

Metro Air Support, the Bernalillo County sheriff's office and fire department, New Mexico State Police, New Mexico Search and Rescue Teams were involved in the rescue efforts.

The Sandia Peak Tramway is closed Saturday due to high winds, the company said.

The tram ride typically takes 15 minutes to the peak of the Sandia Mountains and another 15 minutes back to the lower terminal.

ABC News' Joshua Hoyos contributed to this report.