ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Nearly three weeks after The Wheel at ICON Park suffered a power failure with more than 60 people onboard, the owners of the ride are still performing maintenance and conducting safety checks, and there is no timeframe for when the 400-foot Ferris wheel might reopen.
In a statement to FOX 35 on Wednesday, a representative for ICON Park, which owns and manages the attraction, said the ride was still undergoing maintenance and that there are no new updates on what caused the power failure on New Year's Eve nor an update on when the ride may reopen.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the state agency in charge of inspecting attractions and rides around the state, said it is waiting on the owners of ICON Park to complete their inspections and safety checks before state inspectors can give the final clearance for the ride to reopen, and that the agency has been in communication with ICON Park since the power failure.
The ride cannot reopen until it is inspected by state inspectors, the agency said.
Firefighters and technical rescue crews responded to ICON Park on Dec. 31, 2022, after the ride suffered some sort of mechanical issue and lost power. Video shared with FOX 35 showed a stream of sparks shooting out from the ride and onto one of the gondolas.
What caused the issue remains unclear. FOX 35 has asked representatives of ICON Park, Orange County Fire Rescue, and FDACS what caused the power failure, but have not received a response to that specific question. Orange County Fire Rescue deferred to ICON Park.
A total of 62 people were rescued from 20 pods, according to the Orange County Fire Rescue Department. Firefighters had to manually rotate the massive Ferris wheel to individually open each of the gondolas, officials said. No injuries were reported.
A spokesperson for OCFR said it has conducted training for technical rescues at The Wheel before, so its teams were prepared for such a call.
The Wheel, formerly known as the "Orlando Eye," opened in 2015. It's 400-feet tall and contains several air-conditioned gondolas that provide sweeping views of the entertainment district along International Drive, including of Walt Disney World's theme parks, Disney Springs, and Universal's theme parks.
In March 2022, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell off a drop tower ride at ICON Park and died. That ride, the Orlando FreeFall, is owned by Slingshot Group and housed at ICON Park. A state investigation found that ride operators manually adjusted the seat to accommodate Sampson's size, which may have overridden some of the safety sensors.
The owners of Slingshot Group have challenged that report. However, at the request of Samson's family, who have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Slingshot Group and ICON Park, Slingshot Group have agreed to demolish the ride. A timeline for that demolition has not been announced.