THE owner and operator of a stricken cable car that dangled over a Pakistan ravine for more than 12 hours were arrested after repeatedly ignoring safety warnings, police said last Thursday (24).
Six teenage boys were among eight people left stranded hundreds of feet in the air when two of the three chairlift cables snapped last Tuesday (22), leading to a daring rescue mission that brought them to safety.
“The cables being utilized were of subpar quality, and the machines were also in need of overhauling,” Tahir Ayub Khan, a senior police official in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said. “The initial notice was issued to the owner in June, followed by a second notification served in August.
”Both the cable car operator and the owner were arrested, Khan said. Meanwhile the specialist zipliners who were drafted in to lead the rescue mission were hailed as heroes by the country’s caretaker prime minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar. Muhammad Ali Swati, the owner of a zipline adventure company, and his colleague Muhammad Ilyas used the cable keeping the gondola from plunging into the valley as a zipline to bring six of the group to safety.
“The most significant obstacle we encountered was the absence of light. The wind pressure was also quite high,” Swati said at a reception at the prime minister’s office last Thursday. “The children were petrified, screaming at me and pleading not to approach, fearing that my weight could cause the gondola to descend.
” A military helicopter had brought the first child to safety, while a separate zipline company rescued another.
“It was very stressful,” said Major Asad Khan Marwat, who played a key role coordinating the operation from the ground.
An air force helicopter tried to approach the cable car for hours, but with strong, gusty winds it was difficult to get close.
Asad said rescuers were worried that dropping a rescuer onto the cable car, which was only built for seven or eight people, could cause it to fall. But they struggled to try to convince the terrified children to clip themselves into harnesses and step off the car so they could be winched up by helicopter. Eventually, one child tried just before nightfall. “That kid was able to wear that harness and he hooked himself up,” said Asad. “He was a brave kid.”
The six children had been on their way to school accompanied by two adults when the chairlift broke down Tuesday morning midway through its journey above the remote Allai Valley. “Some of the children were so frustrated and were considering to jump down, but the elder passenger gave us confidence,” 15-year-old Rizwan Ullah said last Wednesday (23).
“When the cable car was twisting, we were terrified and we started reciting the Qu’ran and gave confidence to each other not to jump down.”
Last Wednesday (23), three students walked two hours to school along a hilly path to find out they had passed their exams, before they sought further medical check-ups.
Eighteen-year-old Muhammad, who has just started his final year of high school, feels as if he has been given “a second life”