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Holy moly high wire insanity! The two Roosevelt Island tram cars, which got stuck starting at around 5:20PM yesterday, were only totally evacuated by 4:30AM this morning! There were a total of 69 passengers in the two cars, including children, babies, an elderly lady with a walker, and a dog, and five trips were needed to clear the cars. The NYPD, FDNY and emergency workers used a "diesel-powered rescue gondola" as well as an industrial crane and bucket to pluck people out, and the passengers were uninjured, if a little shaken up. The Times has a description of how the rescue worked:

Passengers described putting on harnesses and swinging across a two-and-a-half-foot gap between the tram and the gondola, which had crawled up along the length of the 3,100-foot stretch of cable with self-generated diesel power.

"They sort of grabbed us and dragged us out," said Maari Desouza, a Roosevelt Island resident who was rescued on the third trip, which was completed by 2 a.m. "Being in the cage is very scary because it's out in the open, especially since I'm afraid of heights," said Ms. Desouza, a director of a school for children with learning disabilities.

The rescuers, who included members of the police Emergency Service Unit who are also trained medical technicians, had removed a window on the side of the tram and passengers were forced to climb from the seats out the window into the gap, which had been bridged by netting underneath.

A number of power failures caused the tramway to stop working, and the backup generator also failed to start. Workers also tried to manually crank the cars in, but as that didn't work, rescue efforts started later in the evening.

The rescued passengers were served juice and cookies - and matzoh for those observing Passover. Food and supplies (like diapers) were sent from the Bridgemarket Food Emporium at East 59th Street. And fun fact: Relatives of Rick "Hillary Clinton trounced my ass" Lazio were on tram cars. Mayor Bloomberg said they would convene an investigation into what happened during an 11:40PM press conference, but was upbeat as rescue efforts were underway. He also said something like this would never happen again, which seems like a tall promise.

One of the passengers rescued early, 12 year old Dax Maier, said that people were keeping the kids' spirits up by dancing; he added, "Sometimes you can find great people in New York." Aw. We just wonder how those folks managed to be up there that long without using the bathroom - maybe there were adult diapers in the supply baskets as well. Luckily everyone is safe and sound - and we expect the movie to be on A&E next year.

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Top photograph of evening rescue from the AP, bottom photograph of afternoon media frenzy from eyeinAstoria on Flickr