Seven die as two cable cars
plunge into sea
The Sunday Times, Jan 30,
SEVEN people died last night when two
Sentosa cable cars plunged into the sea after
the ropeway had been struck by the derrick of
an oil drilling vessel.
Last night rescue services were engaged in
an operation to save another six people
stranded in four other cable cars which
stopped when the accident happened.
And early today two passengers were
rescued from one of the stranded cars in a
daring helicopter operation.
The helicopter lowered a winchman onto the
car's roof; at first he was blown off but on
the second attempt he got onto the roof of
the car and freed the two passengers.
Apart from the helicopters, floating
cranes were being moved into position in case
they were needed to reach the stranded cars,
two on each side of the water.
An emergency operations centre was set up
in PSA Tower under the control of Mr Philip
Yeo, Second Permanent Secretary (Defence).
The disaster happened shortly after 6 pm.
A PSA tug began towing the drillship away
from Keppel Wharf. Shortly afterwards, eye
witnesses said the vessel's gantry tower
snagged one of the two cables, pulling it out
A PSA boatman, Mr Mohamed Noor Nani, said
he looked up from his boat after hearing a
He grabbed a loudhailer and shouted
"Go stun! Go stun!" (go astern) but
the drillship kept moving. Its tower snagged
the cable and the two cars were dislodged and
flung into the water.
Some witnesses said three or more of the
people in them were thrown out as the cars
hurtled 55 m into the water.
Several bodies fell close to Jardin Steps
and a two-year-old boy was rescued alive from
the water. He was in critical condition with
A team of army frogmen rushed to the scene
and combed the water for bodies. Police
sealed off the area around the World Trade
Centre as rescue vehicles and ambulances were
Police Task Force members were called out
to control big crowds which gathered at the
terminal as news of the tragedy spread.
The seven known dead included two out of
seven of a Sikh family which had gone to
Sentosa for the day. A third, a two-year-old
boy, was critically ill in hospital. The
other four had not been accounted for.
As the operation to reach the stranded
cars continued, the major fear was that the
still-entangled drillship tower could break
A Singapore Fire Service spokesman said:
"Almost anything we try will be
The problem was worsened by a combination
of the strong current and the rising tide
high tide was at 11 pm.
In a bid to prevent the drillship from
moving, four tugs put lines aboard and worked
to and fro to keep the drillship Eniwetok
steady in the water.
The Eniwetok had been converted from a
bulk carrier in Keppel Shipyard and was
commissioned only six weeks ago.
With the advent of the high tide at 11 pm,
rescuers feared that as the drillship rose
with the tide, the tension might snap the
As well as the two Sikhs, the dead were Mr
Fred Kunimoto, an American businessman living
in Singapore, and a 60-year-old American
visitor, a Chinese woman aged about 30, an
Australian man aged about 35, and a Caucasian
The accident is the first involving death
or injury since the cable car system opened
in February 1974. But in 1977, there were
several cases of people being stranded when
cable cars broke down.
The system, which cost $12 million, is run
by Singapore Cable Cars and jointly owned by
the Sentosa Development Corporation and the
Copyright © 1998 Singapore
Press Holdings. All Rights Reserved.