If you've been reading much lately about SeaWorld, there's a good chance you haven't liked what you've seen. Well, here's one more thing to consider next time you're gearing up for a trip: San Diego SeaWorld's SkyTower broke down, leaving riders hanging in midair for hours Sunday. With the ride's revolving pod suddenly halting a full 220 feet off the ground, all those on the ride could do was wait while park employees labored to fix the problem.
SeaWorld maintains that the riders were never actually in danger. The halted ride was the result of a power outage which took a whopping four hours to fix, leaving 48 people helplessly stranded for the duration. Of those 48, two were employees of the park, and a SeaWorld spokesman quoted by CNN said they were able to ensure food and water were distributed to the hapless riders.
The guests were never in danger and park officials were in constant communication with them while the power failure was being addressed. Two SeaWorld employees were also in the Skytower providing guests with water and snacks.
He also maintained that none of the riders were ever in danger, and were kept informed of the situation by officials while they were stuck. Still, CBS News reports that a 17-year-old boy was hospitalized following the incident, for anxiety and hyperventilation.
This is yet another public relations snafu for a company that's known little else over the last year. There's been a nearly unrelenting torrent of criticism directed at the marine park chain since January of 2013, when critically-acclaimed documentary Blackfish was released, painting a grim picture of the brutality of orcas forced to live in captivity, and the lethal behavior of Orlando SeaWorld's Tillikum.
Another story in early April alleged that SeaWorld has been drugging its orcas with Valium and Xanax, probably to conceal the effect of the grinding stresses they endure. The combined impact of these kinds of stories — which, it bears mentioning, SeaWorld is quite aggressive about denying — may have indeed had a negative effect on their bottom line. In May, SeaWorld's first-quarter attendance figures showed a 13 percent drop in attendance. (SeaWorld maintains this has to do with innocuous changes to things like spring break dates, not bad publicity.)
Regardless of the cause, however — when your marine park business is starting to lag, and you're already mired in a number of persistent animal abuse scandals, the last thing you need are problems that start affecting your human visitors too. In spite of the whatever actions SeaWorld may have taken to ease the tension while those dozens were trapped in the Skytower, just being cooped up there, as the hospitalized teen would probably agree, could be a source of trauma.