Dozens of people rescued from aerial ride at Massachusetts zoo

The ride at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon was stopped by employees out of an abundance of caution
More than three dozen people were suspended in the air after an aerial ride at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon was stopped.
Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 10:50 PM EDT
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MENDON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - More than three dozen people were suspended in the air after an aerial ride at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon was stopped.

The ride is similar to a ski lift and offers a birds-eye view of about a third of the zoo.

Forty people were rescued Friday after the zoo’s ‘Skyfari’ ride had to be stopped. It’s a triangular chair lift that hovers 30 feet in the air and offers a view of about one-third of the zoo.

“You travel up over the African plains, down by some aoudads and cheetahs, and through part of our deer forest, around by the chimpanzee habitat, and also through part of our elk habitat and then back up the hill over ring-tail lemurs and camels and Ankole cattle and an alligator,” said Southwick’s Zoo Owner Betsey Brewer.

It’s a popular attraction that Brewer told Western Mass News is pretty unique.

“We do believe it’s the only one in the United States,” Brewer explained.

She told us the ride is inspected annually and has regular maintenance and the zoo has never had any problems with it since the ride opened in 2008.

“It always runs smoothly. We’ve never had to evacuate anyone from it. We’ve never shut it down as far as I can remember, except for weather conditions,” Brewer added.

However, because safety is their first priority, Brewer said staff were vigilant and shut the ride down out of an abundance of caution.

“The staff noticed a small oil leak and they were trying to figure out where that oil leak was coming from and they didn’t know what was going on, so out of precautions we shut down the ride and everybody was evacuated from it,” Brewer noted.

It was a process that took about an hour and 45 minutes in total to complete.

“We have a lift that went up and just pulled everybody down quickly, then the fire department showed up about halfway through and they helped us finish the job,” Brewer said.

No injuries were reported. Brewer said mechanics do have an idea of what caused the leak and are currently looking into it, but the ride will most likely remain closed for about a week while they get that fixed and reinspected.