Dozens of Guests Rescued from Hundreds of Feet in the Air at Orlando Theme Park Ride

firemen rescue riders from Icon Park ferris wheel

A fire on New Year’s Eve left 60 guests trapped on a ride at an Orlando theme park, just months after a guest was killed at the park on a separate attraction.

icon park

On Saturday evening at around 6:30 p.m., a power failure at ICON Park on International Drive in Orlando left more than 60 riders stranded in pods on The Wheel, the 400-foot-tall ferris wheel at ICON Park that allows riders to take in the views of Orlando and beyond from the comfort of their air-conditioned, stability-controlled capsules, or pods.

Boasting 64,000 lights that dance every night, The Wheel has been called the “brightest beacon in the Orlando sky,” but on New Year’s Eve, it was all lights out, thanks to a power failure that left more than 60 people trapped on the giant ferris wheel–some hundreds of feet in the air.

Orange County Fire and Rescue crews arrived on the scene to rescue riders who were trapped on the ride.

“We were about a third of the way, and the lights went out,” said Robin Baker, one of the riders who was trapped on The Wheel with his wife. “It just shut down.”

But this was no small ordeal. Riders aboard The Wheel during the power failure were stuck for approximately three hours, and the rescue process was no small feat.

“It was quite nerve-wracking for a little bit,” Kathy Baker, Robin’s wife, said.

“We looked down, and there were flames and sparks and smoke coming. I guess the generator blew or something,” Robin Baker said.

There were indeed sparks coming from the ferris wheel, as seen in this screenshot from a video taken that night.

sparks at icon park the wheel

Credit: WESH

It’s not clear what caused the power to go out, but Orange County Fire and Rescue personnel were the real heroes on New Year’s Eve, getting over 60 individuals out of their capsules onboard The Wheel and down to the ground to safety. It was a difficult task from the beginning, as there was no power to cause the doors on the ferris wheel to rotate and allow visitors to get off the ride.

The Wheel had to be rotated manually. As a capsule dropped down to the loading platform, emergency personnel worked to open a special hatch at the top of the capsule. Then they had to step down a ladder to get to those who were trapped.

riders rescued at icon park by orange country fire and rescue

Credit: Orange County Fire & Rescue

The Bakers were worried from time to time during the ordeal, but they kept positive, saying that the ride was only supposed to give them a short, 20-minute opportunity to take in the sights of Orlando, but they ultimately got that view for about three hours, so they felt they “got their money’s worth.”

In March 2022, however, a very serious accident resulted in the death of a 14-year-old boy named Tyre Sampson, who was visiting ICON Park from out of state with his friends. The group of young people boarded the Orlando FreeFall drop tower attraction, a ride that ride operators should have kept Sampson from riding, since he exceeded the size limit to ensure his safety. There were also issues with his safety harness.
Tyre Sampson

Credit: ABC

Sampson fell from the drop tower when he and other riders were hundreds of feet in the air. Emergency personnel arrived and transported the young teen to a local hospital, where he was pronounced deceased following the accident. Since that time, findings from investigations into the ride and how it was constructed and operated have led the State of Florida to seek to impose a fine of $250,000 against the operator of the Orlando FreeFall.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!