Reedy Creek Fire Department looks at staffing concerns after Disney gondola incident

Some people were stuck on the Skyliner at Walt Disney World for up to three hours on Saturday night.

A union representative for the fire department that responded says they were prepared to rescue people off the Skyliner, but it never should have happened in the first place.

“We were told that this would not happen, that this wouldn’t happen to the ride and within a week it happened to the ride,” said Reedy Creek Professional Firefighters Association Vice President Sean Pierce.

The gondolas smashed together, causing a three-hour delay and rescue operation Saturday night at Disney. 

Pierce says Reedy Creek Fire Rescue rescued six people off one of the gondolas. 

It was an operation that required a specialty truck reaching 116 feet in the air. 

“It’s a platform so you would get the people off on the platform and then they would lower the truck to the ground and then go back up and get more people and then lower it back down,” Pierce said.

Pierce says after helping with one gondola car, Disney was able to get the Skyliner moving and evacuate the other cars safely, but he says the operation was confusing. 

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“In the time that they were standing by to do the rescue, there was a lot of, 'Hold on, we’re going to start the ride again... 'Wait'... 'Get ready,'” Pierce said. “If you’re going to call for the rescue, let the guys do the rescue you set up. We’re looking out for the families, the guests, the employees and the firefighters out there.”

The incident raised concerns for Pierce about firefighter staffing for his department. 

“We’ve been lucky," he said. "We’ve been able to handle stuff when it happens, but we’re just getting lucky.” 

He says the Reedy Creek Fire Department only has 32 firefighters per shift. 

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“I think our guys were prepared," Pierce said. "It’s just there’s not enough of them to perform the rescue if it’s needed for a mass operation.”

He says as Disney has expanded over the years with rides, parks and hotels, Reedy Creek has only hired two more firefighters per shift in the last 22 years. 

“If this had happened at noon or at 4 p.m. in August, I think there’d be some significant possibilities of heat illnesses and a lot more problems,” Pierce said.

The Reedy Creek Fire Department says three people were transported to the hospital and released, but there were no serious injuries.

Disney says it’s investigating what caused the malfunction and has been in touch with and apologized to the guests who were on the Skyliner.