Sky Tower safe, says operator after malfunction

In last Saturday's incident, 39 passengers were stranded for four hours 25m above ground. The cause of the mechanical fault that caused the Sky Tower's third breakdown in seven years is still under probe, and the tower will remain closed until furthe
In last Saturday's incident, 39 passengers were stranded for four hours 25m above ground. The cause of the mechanical fault that caused the Sky Tower's third breakdown in seven years is still under probe, and the tower will remain closed until further notice.ST PHOTOS: SEAH KWANG PENG

The operator of the Tiger Sky Tower ride in Sentosa yesterday said the attraction was safe, after it malfunctioned last Saturday and left 39 people stranded for four hours 25m above ground.

The cause of the mechanical fault that caused the tower's third breakdown in seven years is still under probe, and the tower will remain closed until further notice.

It malfunctioned twice in 2010.

Sky Tower director Alexander Melchers said yesterday: "We positively notice that the emergency response plans work. The Sky Tower is a safe attraction and, together with the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Sentosa Development Corporation, we were able to bring the passengers safely to the ground."

An engineering expert The Straits Times spoke to said that while being stranded on the gondola was an unpleasant experience for passengers, it did not necessarily mean the whole ride was unsafe.

Engineer Chan Chee Kong, an authorised examiner of lifting equipment and an inspector for amusement rides, said: "In every engineering design, the standards will take into account the worst-case hazard scenario, such as dislodgement of the gondola... The incident on Saturday could have been due to a malfunction, with one of the parts of the brake-release mechanisms being stuck for a reason."

What is key is the maintenance regime, he said. "Regular drills and inspections need to be conducted, perhaps every six months or so, to ensure every member of the operational and response team is familiar with his role so that any rescue can be sped up... and to ensure malfunctions are kept to a minimum."

In last Saturday's incident, 39 passengers were stranded for four hours 25m above ground. The cause of the mechanical fault that caused the Sky Tower's third breakdown in seven years is still under probe, and the tower will remain closed until furthe
In last Saturday’s incident, 39 passengers were stranded for four hours 25m above ground. The cause of the mechanical fault that caused the Sky Tower’s third breakdown in seven years is still under probe, and the tower will remain closed until further notice.

Sky Tower did not respond to queries on how often it conducts maintenance checks. But Mr Melchers said last Saturday that engineers had conducted maintenance checks in the morning prior to the ride - as is the usual practice.

Last Saturday, the 39 people stranded were rescued at 9.45pm, more than four hours after the fault was first reported at 5.35pm.

The gondola was eventually lowered and all 39 people emerged unhurt. Those trapped included tourists from Vietnam and four children.

On whether the latest incident would affect Sentosa's image, Ngee Ann Polytechnic senior lecturer in tourism Michael Chiam said it was unlikely. The Tiger Sky Tower, introduced in 2004, is not a new attraction and, although it is popular, it is not one of the top attractions in Sentosa, he said.

"How we respond to the situation affects how tourists view us... At all times, safety was paramount, in how the various parties responded to the situation.

"There aren't many accidents involving tourist attractions in Singapore in general, and when there are, we are on top of things."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Sky Tower safe, says operator after malfunction'. Print Edition | Subscribe