It’s been two years since the popular Jurassic Skyline was dismantled and packed away to leave Weymouth seafront.
The observation tower was a hit with residents and tourists alike during its five-year stay as people enjoyed the view of the seaside town and surrounding area with the ability to see for miles in weather. clear and sunny. It was a great family destination and helped bring more people to Weymouth.
Yet the tourist attraction made national headlines when 13 people and a baby were trapped inside the Jurassic Skyline Tower’s pod.
Read more: Failed Weymouth Peninsula plans and what could happen next to the site
Here’s what happened that night and why it’s no longer on Weymouth seafront.
What was the Jurassic Skyline tower?
The Jurassic Skyline tower stood 53 meters tall with a clear-fronted passenger gondola that would slowly rotate and allow visitors to have 360-degree panoramic views of Weymouth, the coast and the surrounding area.
The gondola climbed 174 feet into the tower and turned twice to provide a 360 degree view of the area, before descending again.
It was a hit with locals and tourists alike when it opened in June 2012 ahead of the 2012 Olympics, with sailing events held in the area.
Online reviewers shared how “scary but amazing” it was and a “good attraction”. One tourist wrote: “The view from the top of the tower is amazing, the water is so clear you can see sea fish swimming in the water below. You can see miles of historic and beautiful coastline. “
When the tower failed – leaving terrifying tourists trapped
On the afternoon of Tuesday, September 5, 2017, 13 people and an 11-week-old baby climbed the tower to admire the view of the area. These included two staff members who were on board for security reasons.
As the gondola ascended the tower, the tower stalled and could not advance further. People inside the gondola said they “heard a huge bang and it just stopped” and they wondered what happened.
It became clear that something had gone wrong, but those on board could not descend an escape ladder in the tower.
Emergency services were called at 4.15pm as those trapped on board sought to escape.
Coastguard rescue sees trapped tourists and baby airlifted to safety
Firefighters from Weymouth, Poole, Westbourne and Dorchester arrived at the scene after engineers’ efforts to free the stuck gondola failed.
Crews climbed the tower to provide support and reassurance to guests and two staff in the gondola.
The priority was to safely rescue those trapped, but emergency services at the time reported that “bad weather” made the task difficult.
A British Coastguard search and rescue helicopter was needed as crews aimed to winch those stranded from the tower. The helicopter arrived before 6 p.m. while hovering over the tower.
One by one, a Coastguard officer helped get people to safety, as seen above. They were taken to the nearby Weymouth lodge for treatment, while one person was taken to Weymouth Community Hospital.
Speaking to the BBC, Peter Hyre said: “I’m claustrophobic, it’s been awful.”
He was winched from the tower with his partner by a Coastguard helicopter and added: ‘The wind was up, it was whistling – it shakes you a bit.
UK Coastguard ARCC Comptroller Mark Chamberlain said at the time: ‘This is certainly one of the more unusual calls we’ve had, but our helicopter crews are trained for all types of rescues, including cathedral steeple towers and precarious cliffs.”
What did the paramedics say?
A statement from the fire service issued at around 7.50pm said: “Thirteen people trapped in the Jurassic Skyline tower gondola on Festival Pier, Weymouth are being winched to safety by a coastguard helicopter.
“Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service were called to the scene at 4.12pm on September 5, 2017 after engineers’ efforts to free the stuck gondola failed.
“Technical rescue teams from Weymouth and Poole, together with the aerial ladder platform from Westbourne and a support team from Dorchester, attended the scene and firefighters climbed the tower to provide support and reassure the 11 members of the public and two members of the gondola staff.
“Working with colleagues from Dorset Police, the local authority, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the attraction operators, the service explored a number of rescue options, but most were ruled out for safety reasons due to bad weather.
“At approximately 7:30 p.m. the Coastguard helicopter began to winch the trapped people. Arrangements were made to provide them with a safe place to rest and recuperate once they were back on the ground.”
Tower rescue “unusual work”
While Coastguard helicopter captain Simon Tye agreed the rescue was unusual work.
He said: “What made it feasible was the way everyone was prepared for it. We had great communications with the National Maritime Operations Center and the Commander of the Fire and Dorset rescue, which prepared us perfectly for what we were flying towards and how we were going to accomplish the mission.
“Coastguard teams and Dorset Police had prepared a landing site for us and once we landed at the scene we liaised with the rescue teams and prepared a plan for the easiest way sure to perform the rescue.
“We were really the last chance to knock them down.
“The tower has an odd shape with an overhang, so we calculated that we would need to hover about 180ft at a distance close to 5ft from the top of the tower to perform the rescue safely.
“Everyone was incredibly brave as they waited their turn to be rescued, but the first up were the baby and the mum with the winch.
“We carried the baby in a special child rescue case which is basically a large pod modified for winching, then we winched the toddler up and lowered all three of them to the ground.
“To ensure we got maximum performance from the aircraft, we took the remaining victims to the ground in groups of two.
“That means we landed six times and refueled in the middle of the operation.
“After we refueled it became dark, but by then we were well trained in the operation.
“We would like to say a big thank you to the multiple emergency service teams on site who stepped up to make this rescue mission such a success.”
What caused the outage and what happened to the tower?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched an investigation into the causes of the Jurassic Skyline tower failure.
Owners Merlin Entertainments originally said the tower would be closed for a month while an investigation was conducted.
Merlin Entertainments said there was a “mechanical fault” in the unit controlling the speed, and the recovery process to lower the ride was not working. The tower became stuck with its emergency brake in place, requiring emergency services to be called.
The attraction closed during the winter months as it usually did, but did not reopen as Merlin Entertainments made the decision to close the attraction in August 2019.
A statement said: “Over the past few years, visitor volume has declined and after carefully considering all options on the financial viability of Jurassic Skyline, we have made the difficult decision not to extend the life of this attraction.
“As a result, Jurassic Skyline is now permanently closed. This was an extremely difficult decision that was made with a heavy heart and with the utmost consideration. The ride has been sold to another operator and will be removed in due course.”
The tower was dismantled in three stages in December 2019 and the parts were remarkably sent to Baghdad for an amusement park. The site on Weymouth seafront is now empty.
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