23/06/2009

High Drama On Belfast's Big Wheel

A man has been arrested after he climbed up the 60 metres high Belfast Wheel and balanced on top, halting the wheel and trapping passengers for a time.

The 38-year-old, who was stripped off to nothing but shorts, scaled to the top of the wheel on Monday evening.

Specially trained police negotiators were called in and after two and a half hours, a specialist team of firefighters climbed up and led the man to safety.

It is understood the man was a member of the Traveller community who had been involved in a protest at City Hall.

There was some disruption as roads around the city hall were closed and a large crowd gathered as emergency services arrived at the scene.
News Image
A number of people were trapped inside some of the pods on the wheel during the safety operation as it couldn't be moved to release them during the incident.

The man climbed the wheel around 6.30pm and came down about 8.30pm, when he was arrested.

Councillor Pat McCarthy told today's Belfast News Letter that the man had previously been protesting at the front of City Hall.

"Apparently Roads Service told him he had to vacate his caravan from the front of City Hall," he said.

Mr McCarthy said there were five fire tenders at the scene and that, when firefighters began climbing up to rescue him, the protester began to climb down.

"Last week we had the rights of immigrants highlighted in Belfast and I think this highlights the rights of Travellers this week," said Mr McCarthy.

(BMcC/JM)

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