2012-06-14 / Local & State

Pa. Coaster That Stuck Had Malfunctioned Before

ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) – An eastern Pennsylvania roller coaster that stalled and left riders dangling for about an hour and a half last week also malfunctioned almost three years ago when it was located on the other side of the country, but an official said that incident was unrelated.

The Stinger at Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom previously operated as Invertigo at Great America in Santa Clara, Calif., where a mechanical failure left two dozen people stuck 80 feet in the air for at least three hours in 2009, The (Allentown) Morning Call said. As in Wednesday’s malfunction at Dorney Park, there were no injuries.

Dorney Park spokeswoman Carrie Basta said the mechanical problem was not the same one that caused the problem at Great America. She also said the ride was given a complete overhaul before its April debut that included upgraded control systems, a full track work-up, a new foundational structure and newly installed mechanical and drive systems.

The ride stalled at about 1 p.m. Wednesday, but Lehigh County emergency officials said crews were not alerted until almost 2:30 p.m. Basta said officials felt the safest option would be to return the coaster to its base rather than have crews rescue the 28 passengers from the high point of the ride.

“Our first goal is to get them back into the station so they can exit in the way they were intended,” she told the paper. “Unfortunately, yes, the length of time people were stuck was long. But this is something that happens when you are running a coaster.”

County emergency management director Thomas Nervine said park officials followed their protocol and the situation was resolved before emergency workers arrived.

Dennis Speigel, president of Cincinnati consulting firm International Theme Park Services Inc., said it's not unusual for rescues from stalled coasters to take time. Since modern rides operate off computers, it can take a while to determine if a computer or a mechanical part malfunctioned, he said.

“They're also dealing with heavy equipment and you may have to retrieve people,” Speigel said. “It’s a time factor and it is not an unduly amount of time unless you’re the one hanging upside down.”

Despite the incident, a state official said Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom gets high marks from the state for rider safety, the Lower Macungie Patch reported.

“They have an outstanding record with us,” said Nicole Bucher, spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture, which regulates rides at amusement parks and festivals. She said the park alerted the state about Wednesday's malfunction even though it was not required to do so since no one was injured.

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