Sometimes despite advanced safety systems, training, and the best planning events and circumstances do not unfold as planned. Sometimes in the pursuit of safety park guests can be seriously inconvenienced or experience fear and anxiety as they await rescue from their predicament. Unfortunately, park guests at Six Flags America were trapped on the train for the rollercoaster Joker’s Jinx for nearly 5 hours. While being stranded in any confined space for an extended time period can bad enough, the situation is only exacerbated when it occurs nearly fifty feet in the air.
Six Flags America is located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland approximately 30 miles from Baltimore and about 15 miles from Washington D.C. As the 10th park to join Six Flag’s park properties in 1992, the park now boasts 54 rides and attractions ranging from kiddie rides to thrill rides like roller coasters and water slides.
How did the Roller Coaster Get Stuck?
While park officials are not sure what exactly caused it to do so, the roller coaster’s automatic computerized safety system tripped on Sunday afternoon thereby disabling the roller coaster train. Park officials have characterized this operation as an intended one and not a malfunction. The park has stated “While we are not yet sure what caused the stoppage, the ride performed as it is designed to.” The statement continued to inform the public that “The ride will remain closed until the park completes a thorough investigation and both the staff and ride manufacturer have determined the ride is safe for operation.”
While the ride did not malfunction, it certainly did lead to inconvenience for the 24 individuals who were trapped roughly 50 feet in the air for up to 5 hours.
Patrons on Joker’s Jinx Rollercoaster require Rescue by Prince George’s County Fire Dept.
Local news reports and tweets from park officials indicate that the ride became stuck in the vicinity of 3pm on Sunday July 10, 2014. The roller coaster train became stuck on one of the coaster’s higher curves. While estimates of the height of the disabled car varied, reports pegged the vehicle as stalling between 45 and 80 feet in the air.
At 3:52pm Prince George’s County Fire Chief, Marc Bashoor, tweeted one of the first of his many updates regarding the rescue process. The tweet read “Firefighters have made face to face access with first riders – this will be a long term rescue”. As the rescue proceeded, Bashoor described the process that rescuers were utilizing to remove the park guests from the disabled vehicle and ferry them to safety. He tweeted “Riders being strapped in place within each car, before cars passenger restraint can be released. Then pulled 1 by 1 – 1st 2 people in bucket.” As the report suggests, riders of the disabled coaster were placed in a harness. The rollercoasters restraint would then be released and the guest would be pulled into the cherry picker’s bucket. The guests would then be lowered to the ground where EMS personnel were standing by.
At 7:10pm, roughly 5 hours after the roller coaster train had become disabled, Balshoor and park officials confirmed that all guests had been rescued successfully. Balshoor wrote “All 24 patrons ON the ground being evaluated by EMS.”
Third Stalled Coaster Incident at a Six Flags park in 2013
This stalled coaster incident is the third of the summer for Flags.
The first incident occurred at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California on the Ninja rollercoaster. The roller coaster’s train became disabled and partially derailed after striking a tree branch that had fallen onto the tracks. While initial reports indicated only minor injuries, medical exams apparently uncovered more serious consequences. One of the injured patrons has filed a lawsuit, in part, alleging that he suffered a traumatic brain injury.
The second incident was a more minor one occurring at Six Flag’s great Adventure located in Jackson New Jersey. In this instance the rollercoaster lost power as its train approached the top of Nitro’s 230-foot hill. Riders were forced to walk down a stairway which runs parallel to the coast’s conveyor system that was pulling the train up the hill. No injuries were reported in this ride stoppage.
This final incident, like the one previous to it, has also been reported to have not caused any injuries. Credit for the lack of injuries should be directed not only at first-responders who risked their lives to rescue the stranded guests, but also park officials. Realizing that exposure to the sun and heat presented a risk to the stranded patrons food, water and sunscreen were provided to prevent dehydration or other heat-related conditions.