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SD Zoo Skyfari gondola ride gets stuck after vandalism, 100 riders stuck for hours

Four individuals were arrested and charged with felony vandalism for derailing their gondola, causing the ride to stop on Saturday.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Passengers on the San Diego Zoo's Skyfari gondola were stuck on the ride for hours Saturday, but eventually all patrons safely exited the ride on their own after it began moving again.

The San Diego Zoo confirmed to CBS 8 that approximately 100 people on the ride were stuck in the air for a little more than two hours while emergency crews evacuated the gondolas.

SDPD confirmed to CBS 8 that four adults ages 20-24 were arrested for felony vandalism. 

On Monday the San Diego Police Department released the names of the men who were arrested. Jacob Bauer, Brayden Posey, Brandon Cook and Marquette Williams were arrested for rocking the gondolas so hard back and forth that it came off the track, which automatically shut down 28 gondolas. 

On Tuesday, Feb. 1, Major Mason Englehart, director of communication strategy and operations confirmed the four men are U.S. Marines from 3d MAW. 

"We are committed to being good neighbors to the San Diego community and will continue to work with local authorities as they continue their investigation," said Major Englehart. "Anyone found in violation of law or directive will be held appropriately accountable. This behavior is contrary to our core values and 3d MAW is conducting an investigation into the incident."

San Diego Police say the four have posted bail and have an arraignment set for February 8 where formal charges will be announced

San Diego Fire-Rescue Department crews were called to the scene shortly after 4 p.m. Saturday.

At 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the fire department tweeted that the ride was unstuck and passengers had all safely departed, adding that "some may need medical evaluation."

The Skyfari gondola includes 80 chairs that take people on a 20-minute ride. Fire crews remained at the zoo until all passengers were safely on the ground.

The San Diego Zoo tells CBS 8 that patrons who were stuck on the Skyfari were given complimentary tickets for a future visit.

A spokesperson for the zoo released this statement:

Today at the San Diego Zoo, four adults disrupted the Skyfari while acting recklessly in one of the gondolas, causing the ride to initiate its safety precautions and stop. There were approximately 100 people on the ride and it took a little more than two hours for Zoo staff and emergency crews to evacuate the gondolas. The Zoo called the fire department to ensure that no one needed medical attention. All declined medical attention, and everyone was removed safely. Four people were taken into police custody for vandalism to the gondola.

Brian Watkins, a local criminal and civil lawyer, said any criminal prosecution will depend on whether the men did any damage to the gondola or the track.

“What they did was very dangerous, but can you be criminally prosecuted? That’s going to be the question,” said Watkins. “If they did cause damage to the equipment in an excess of $950 dollars, which is serious damage, they’re gonna be facing a restitution award, which means they will have to pay back every dollar of the damage including the loss of use and any incidental damages, so that can get to be a pretty hefty bill.  

"Legally speaking, they can be facing up to a year in jail for something like this but it’s unlikely that they will do any jail time if they don’t have any prior record, but like I said, those restitution costs can be quite a sting."

While no one was injured, Watkins did say this could’ve turned out much worse. 

“If they had caused something to fall or break and it hurt someone underneath that ride or even killed them, they could be charged with murder or manslaughter," said Watkins.  "There’s consequences to your actions. If someone does get seriously hurt, you’re going to be held liable and you’re going to be held criminally liable.” 

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