Trapped on the tram: The rescue from another perspective

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — 21 people rang in the new year trapped on the Sandia Peak Tram – suspended in the freezing mountain air. Their successful rescue was quite the spectacle for some in the Foothills area.

Aaron Blanc, a local landscape photographer, got a text from his father-in-law about the incident, which prompted him to grab his camera Saturday. He took pictures of the tram rescue mission with a telephoto lens.

"My biggest concern was, are they going to have to stop this operation mid-rescue and leave some people still stuck up there," Blanc said. "I was able to witness the sheriff’s helicopter landing by the tower."

Bernalillo County Undersheriff Larry Koren was flying the rescue helicopter at the time.

"As far as danger goes, the risk was actually pretty low," Koren said.

He said the weather was one of the biggest challenges and they were trained to evacuate people directly from the tram car – with a suspended rope from the helictoper – but decided that wasn’t the safest option.

"[There] were some concerns about icing on the cable and the possibility that the icing could break off, and send one of those cables high into the air," Koren said.

Instead, the 21 people repelled to the ground where the helicopter was used to minimize the time people were exposed to the frigid elements – and transport people back to the base.

"Having that number of people being evacuated from the tram was a big success," Koren said.

The rescue impressed Blanc, even from a distance.

"I have full faith in it," Blanc said. "And you’d find me back on the tram this week if I could."

As far as when the tram will reopen, the general manger said Tuesday is a traditional maintenance day – so they are going to evaluate the system Tuesday and decide when to reopen the tram and Ten3.

To see more of Blanc’s photos, click here.