24 people stuck on roller coaster

August 10, 2009 6:37:13 PM PDT
24 people got trapped on a roller coaster at the Great America theme park for hours after their ride got stuck on Monday. Riders were stuck as high as 80 feet in the air. It took rescue crews several hours to get them down safely, bringing down one person at a time.

Many park guests did not have a clue what was happening on the "Invertigo," one of the most visible rides at the park. They were shielded from the area and Great America staff told many people to go home and would only say they were closing down for repairs.

Fire rescue teams from Santa Clara County, the City of Santa Clara and San Jose responded to the incident. They used a 100-foot aerial ladder to get the 24 stranded riders back to the ground.

It was a painstaking process. Firefighters have had to strap each person into a safety harness before releasing the rollercoaster's harness. The first rescue was completed around 3:15 p.m., just over two hours after the incident began.

Great America spokesman Jim Stellmack told ABC7 they process was intentionally slow.

"All the guests are seated. They're not upside down or anything like that. They're in a seated position, comfortably. So, safety is our number one priority, so we're taking it slow and easy to make sure that we do this and don't have any issues as a result," he said.

"Most of the kids that were up there, they were pretty much, they were kicking their feet and they didn't look like anybody was in any distress. Looked like a lot of people were handing them water and stuff, keeping them hydrated," recalled park visitor Brian Murrell.

It was a very hot afternoon in Santa Clara so riders have been provided bottled water in order to stay hydrated.

Invertigo made its debut 11 years ago at Great America. It experienced a similar accident in April of 2000 when 25 riders were stuck halfway up for half an hour. There were no injuries then and none have been reported today.

A Cal-OSHA official in charge of park safety is heading to the park to take a closer look at what happened. Park officials could not say exactly what led to the car getting stuck.

Bay City News contributed to this story.


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