19 people rescued from Skyfari flight at Southwick’s Zoo

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

Nineteen people were rescued Friday afternoon after being trapped for an hour and a half during an air ride at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon.

At around 2:42 p.m., the zoo’s Skyfari Sky Ride, which is similar to a ski lift, stopped halfway through the ride after zoo officials discovered a small oil leak in the machines, the zoo said.

When emergency services 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 as zoo employees and firefighters worked to remove them from the ride, officials said.

People on the ground threw water at the riders as they sat in the afternoon heat, WCVB reported.

Rescuers helped the guests exit the ride using boom lifts with buckets and a fire ladder. All guests were back on the ground by 4:15 PM, officials said. 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, alligators, and more!”

The Mendon Fire Department posted about the rescue on Facebook, saying: “From our arrival, we’ve worked closely with Southwick’s staff, which helped get the job done safely and quickly.”

Along with the help of Mendon Police, firefighters received mutual aid from fire brigades in Uxbridge, Bellingham, Blackstone, Upton and Woonsocket.

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

The statement said:

“As you may know, guests at Southwick’s Zoo were disrupted this afternoon when it was necessary to close the Skyfari Sky Ride. Everyone on the ride was safely removed and there were no injuries. There was a small oil leak and just to be careful, we chose to close the ride for everyone’s safety. Guests were helped out of the ride by our trained staff and the Mendon Fire Department. We are so grateful to our staff and senior management trained in emergency evacuations and the Mendon Fire Department for responding to the situation. The Southwick family are happy that the day has ended well for everyone.”

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