Firefighter: Disney gondola rescues show staffing issues as parks grow

Reedy Creek Fire Department used all 'manpower' for Skyliner rescues

Disney's Skyliner incident required all of Reedy Creek's manpower to rescue passengers on Saturday.

ORLANDO, Fla. – It is still unclear what exactly caused Disney's Skyliner to stall Saturday night, with company officials only saying it was a malfunction. 

Reedy Creek firefighters said they got the call around 8:30 p.m. after several passengers were trapped inside the gondolas. 

Sean Pierce is the vice president of Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Association and said all of their firefighters responded. 

[RELATED: New Disney Skyliners closed as gondola incident investigatedDisney World's new gondolas come to halt, strand passengers for hours]

Pierce said crews had to rescue at least six guests from at least one car on the gondola system.

"Luckily, it was only six cars involved that they were able to get the people down and we didn't have to evacuate the whole line," Pierce said. 

Though Reedy Creek firefighters did not have to use ropes for the rescues, they still called for extra help from Orange and Osceola county fire departments out of an abundance of caution.  

Some guests said they were stuck inside their cars but were able to get off on their own after some time. It's unclear how many total cars were affected.

According to a spokesperson for Reedy Creek, one person required medical following the incident. Three people were hospitalized and released a short time later, the spokesperson said.

Pierce also explained that if passengers had been stuck during the day, it could have been a lot worse.

"If this was a four-hour event from noon to four, these people are going to be hot. I think we could've ended up with a lot more patients and a lot more calls," Pierce said.

Pierce told News 6 that the lack of personnel at Reedy Creek is an issue and the department is not hiring. 

"When I started here in 1997, we had 30 firefighters on shift. Today, we have 32 firefighters on shift. That's not a big increase, and Disney continues to grow," he said. 

[MORE: 'That was a nightmare': Disney guest describes gondola mishap]

Disney has since closed the new Skyliners as officials work to find out what happened.

"My concern is you provide a service, and you have millions of people coming into the theme park. You need to have adequate personal to handle the situation,"  Senator Victor Torres said.

Disney officials released a statement following the incident, saying they're investigating the cause.

"We have a team diligently looking into the cause of last night's malfunction on the Epcot line of the Disney Skyliner," a Disney spokesperson said. "We have been in contact with the guests, many of whom were on the Skyliner for more than three hours until we were able to restart the system. We express our sincere apologies for the inconvenience and continue to work with each guest individually."

About the Author:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!