Big Wheel users stuck at top for 45 mins in high winds

Helen Bunker was stranded on the wheel with her two children. Picture: Greg Macvean
Helen Bunker was stranded on the wheel with her two children. Picture: Greg Macvean
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REVELLERS were left stuck at the top of the Capital’s Big Wheel for 45 minutes after high winds triggered a safety alert.

The incident, which happened at around 5.30pm on Saturday, saw more than 100 people left stranded on the popular ride – with no way of communicating with the wheel’s operators below.

As temperatures fell to just above freezing and a biting wind rocked the carriages 130ft above Princes Street, anxious thrillseekers were eventually forced to phone the Edinburgh’s Christmas box office for information.

Underbelly, which runs the city’s Christmas attractions, said the problems were down to a weather-triggered “safety alert”.

Angela Moffat, from Dalkeith, said both she and her 12-year-old son, Harvey, had suffered panic attacks as a 
result of the incident.

The 47-year-old said: “It was horrible, absolutely horrible. It was just the worst feeling in the world and it was freezing.

“The cage was shaking back and forward. Harvey was crying all the way home on the bus.”

Helen Bunker, from Bonnington, described how the attraction’s lights and sound system shut down completely, leaving her stranded in the air with her two children, Florence, six, and Darcey, seven.

But the 36-year-old said the most worrying thing was that the family was unable to communicate with anyone on the ground.

She said: “They couldn’t tell us anything. Inside the carriage there’s no way of 
communicating [with the operators below] – there’s no button to press.

“We dressed for the weather, but when you’re static for that amount of time you do get very, very cold. If my kids had started getting really upset I don’t know what I would have done.

“It was busy – people were out despite the weather. It was quite full. We were sharing our carriage with a few other people we didn’t know.

“It was really windy, so the carriage was rocking.

“The guys in the carriage with us had a dinner reservation and had to call and cancel that. One of the guys needed the toilet as well.

“We got our money back and we got a voucher for a hot chocolate. They were refunding people frantically as they got off.”

An Underbelly spokesman said each of the wheel’s carriages was completely enclosed and weather-proof.

He said: “On early Saturday evening, a safety alert was triggered on the Big Wheel due to the inclement weather, requiring a controlled exit of the ride.

“All passengers were safely disembarked in under 35 minutes from the time of the alert. Unfortunately the design of the Big Wheel does not allow for an intercom system to be installed.

“We will be posting a 
telephone number in each capsule to allow passengers to speak to a representative if they have any concerns about the ride.”

Yesterday, Underbelly’s 
St Andrew’s Day celebrations in St Andrew Square were forced to move indoors due to continuing bad weather.

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com