World

Mother and four children trapped in Christchurch Gondola

Tash Smith was stuck in a swinging, hot gondola for nearly two hours with four screaming children.

Ms Smith said her three young children and a friend were so traumatised by being among 30 people trapped in the Christchurch Gondola about 1pm on Saturday that one vomited as they finally left.

It was a fun adventure for Smith siblings - Lotte, 7, Madi, 8, and Finn, 4 - on the Christchurch Gondola, until minutes ...
It was a fun adventure for Smith siblings - Lotte, 7, Madi, 8, and Finn, 4 - on the Christchurch Gondola, until minutes after this photo was taken. Photo: Tash Smith

Many passengers were angered by gondola managing director Michael Esposito describing the suspended cable car incident as "no big deal".

Mr Esposito said the company would look on Tuesday at installing a speaker system in the carriages to communicate with passengers in future.

Anxious passengers called emergency services after Christchurch's Gondola stopped for nearly two hours on Saturday afternoon.
Anxious passengers called emergency services after Christchurch's Gondola stopped for nearly two hours on Saturday afternoon. Photo: Dean Kozanic

Ms Smith felt the company "failed their duty of care and treated us worse then livestock".

"The way [staff] handled it was disgusting."

Aside from vowing never going on the city's gondolas again, the children – aged 4, 7, 7, and 8 – had "been put off for life" going on any similar attractions again. 

Stalled high above the ground, the carriage swung in the wind and jolted whenever it appeared maintenance staff were trying to move it.

"It was scary, and sent the kids off each time," Ms Smith said.

"They were in tears and screaming in fear, saying 'we're going to die'."

One complained of wanting to be sick, but held off until they were out of the confined space.

"Sadly on the way home one of the children was so traumatised still she vomited terribly in the car."

When Ms Smith tried to call the company with her mobile phone from the carriage, the reaction was "so overly relaxed" and dismissive that she did not feel anything was being done about it. She was promised a call back, but said she heard nothing.

She spent so long trying to get hold of the company that she got concerned when her phone was down to one per cent battery. The group had no water, and were in the heat with no shade.

"My only option was to call [emergency services] in the hope that the gondola might action something to get us down.

"You can't treat people like that."

Despite the company claiming it had refunded passengers, she had received no such refund.

It was only the second time the family had used their $NZ129 ($121) family pass, but they would never use it again.

Comments about the incident being no big deal were "unrealistic", she said.

Mr Esposito said he was "very sorry about what happened".

It was caused by a health and safety mechanism being triggered.

"We're sorry about the delays, it should have been back up and operating quicker than that.

"Unfortunately, it was a very hot day, unusual for Christchurch."

People were offered cold drinks afterwards, but it had been "hit and miss" as to who got one. So far 35 people had been refunded, and Mr Esposito said he would call Ms Smith to arrange hers.

He understood not having a good communication system had created anxiety.

"We're looking at putting speakers in the pods so if something like that happens again we will be able to communicate with people in the pods to tell them what was happening."

Stuff.co.nz