I love amusement parks. As a youngster I was fortunate enough to visit many different theme parks across the country. When Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois first opened, it was close enough for a day trip and there was always a group of high school students that had convinced a parent to chaperone (i.e. "pay for gas and drive") on a Saturday during the summer. I enjoyed many parks as a child and again as an adult. The roller coasters were always my favorite. At each coaster, inevitably, there would be someone in the group who refused to participate. He or she was so frightened that they would remain behind to hold cameras, hats, sunglasses and anything that might get lost during the adventure.
The only time I was frightened by a roller coaster was at Opryland Theme Park outside of Nashville, Tennessee. This theme park, which closed in 1997, featured an indoor roller coaster called The Demon. The line for this ride was enclosed and decorated to resemble a mine shaft. Sinister music and spooky noises were pumped through speakers in the tunnels and, as visitors got closer to the ride, the music appeared to get louder and faster which added to the excitement. With my turn soon approaching, a problem with the roller coaster was discovered and the line stopped moving. I was trapped in that tunnel for what seemed like forever while the situation was assessed and it was determined we could safely continue. Roller coaster aficionados know that one does NOT get out of line when something like this happens, but the claustrophobic effects of the tunnel were more frightening than any roller coaster I have experienced.
Last Sunday, twelve customers were stuck in the air for hours after the brand-new Superman roller coaster at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom stopped mid-ride. One of the cars stalled at the very highest point of the ride – just before the track descends into a series of barrel rolls.
"Up there, at that point, gravity takes over and does its job. In this case, it's possible gravity stopped working for us." – Charles Laureano, Discovery Kingdom's Ride Operations Manager
The coaster was examined and no mechanical problems were discovered, so the cause of the stoppage remains unknown. The Superman is thought to be the parks most popular ride, attracting as many as 4,000 riders each day. Regardless of the cause, no one was injured. After the park used a state-required standby crane (great idea!) to deliver water to the victims, a mechanic was able to start the ride in reverse and the riders were lowered to safety.
Personally, I'd rather be stranded high atop a roller coaster safely strapped into a seat and under watchful eyes that caught in a dark tunnel filled with exasperated teenagers.
Do you have any roller coaster stories to share?
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