Planderella - Home Town News
Platform at aquarium falls, dumps people into shark tank
The Associated Press
8/7/02 11:37 PM
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A platform at the Aquarium of the Americas collapsed Wednesday evening, dumping 10 people straight into a tank teeming with sharks.
There were no serious injuries reported, but two people were taken to Tulane University Hospital for minor cuts and bruises they sustained after hitting artificial barnacles as they fell, aquarium spokeswoman Melissa Lee said.
The accident happened while members of the aquarium were on an after-hours behind-the-scenes tour. The platform they were standing on is used by keepers to feed the sharks and is not usually open to the general public, Lee said.
The steel footbridge in the Gulf of Mexico exhibit allows visitors to peer down into a 400,000 gallon tank home to everything from a few dozen nurse and sand tiger sharks to turtles, schools of redfish and stingrays.
Erin Rooney, 14, was on the catwalk with her family when it collapsed.
"It just cracked. We held onto the bars and swam to the sides," she told WVUE-TV.
Her father, Dan Rooney, was frantically searching for his 2-year-old grandchild, when he saw someone hand the toddler to another person on the stable part of the catwalk.
"I was just praying none of the sharks got agitated from all of the splashing and everything. I mean, they got sharks in there bigger than me," he said.
Though at 10-feet long and 400 pounds the sharks may seem intimidating, they had already been fed and are generally docile, Lee said.
The sharks are used to seeing divers in their tank on a regular basis, but seeing so many people tumble in at once was probably startled them, Lee said.
"I've been told they took off and went to the other side of the exhibit," she said.
Staffers at the aquarium are trained to deal with emergencies like this one, Lee said, and reacted quickly to the chaotic scene, pulling people from the waters using nearby flotation devices.
"They knew exactly what to do and they did it," she said.