SINGAPORE - A romantic birthday celebration for Mrs Brenda Chan and her husband, Brandon, turned into a nearly hour-long wait in darkness while suspended more than 60m in the air.
The couple were among 18 cable car passengers who were left stranded in their cabins for more than 30 minutes after an operating system error on Wednesday (July 27) evening brought the Mount Faber cable car line to a halt.
Mrs Chan, 29, and Mr Chan, 30, had gone for dinner at a restaurant on Mount Faber to celebrate her birthday and decided to ride the cable car from the mainland to Sentosa island and back as there was a discount on the tickets.
But as they were about to return to the Mount Faber station, their cable car stopped without warning.
Mr Chan, a bank executive, said there were initially no announcements about what had happened, and he had to call cable car operator Mount Faber Leisure Group's emergency hotline for more information.
Starting the trip at about 8.50pm, the couple were able to leave their cabin only at about 10pm.
"It made us think back to the old cable car accidents that Singapore has had," said Mrs Chan, an ethics and compliance manager in a fintech firm.
In 1983, seven people were killed after the derrick of an oil drillship struck the Sentosa cableway, causing two cars to dislodge and plunge into the sea.
More recently, in 2010, 20 passengers found themselves trapped in their cabins for 15 minutes after lightning triggered sensors which brought the cable cars to a sudden halt.
Shin Min Daily News reported on Thursday that the Mount Faber line stopped working at about 9.15pm on Wednesday.
Officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force and police were spotted at the scene, said the Chinese-language daily.
Responding to queries from The Straits Times, a Mount Faber Leisure Group spokesman said the cable car line's operating system had to be rebooted due to the error.
But, for safety, the cable cars had to be returned to the nearest station for guests to disembark before the system could be restarted.
The returning of the cars was done using a secondary system at about 9.50pm.
Mount Faber Leisure Group, which is wholly owned by Sentosa Development Corporation, said the 18 passengers stranded in six cabins all disembarked safely at the nearest station, with the last passenger alighting at 10.55pm.
"We were in constant communication with the passengers via the in-cabin intercom and our service hotline. Regular updates were provided during the entire duration to ensure their safety and well-being," its spokesman added.
The company said cable car service resumed normal operation on Thursday after all required safety checks were completed, noting that there was no mechanical fault involved in the incident.
Mr and Mrs Chan, however, felt more could have been done to update passengers who were trapped.
Mrs Chan said she heard only two generic announcements on the intercom during the ordeal, which left her and her husband wondering how long they would be trapped and how serious the fault was.
She added: "Because we were so close to the station, it was stuffy. It was tolerable, but the darkness did add to the worry."
While her husband still hopes to get a refund after the bad experience, she said she was more sympathetic.
"I'm assuming the cable car company hasn't had good business for a while because of Covid-19, so I'm willing to let it go," Mrs Chan said.
"My impression is that we have very well-maintained attractions. So it was a bit disappointing and surprising that our cable car broke down."