When we visit a major theme park or amusement park we expect an issue-free day where we can enjoy all of the park’s attractions and features. However sometimes despite planning and precautions, unanticipated events and scenarios can unfold. Such was the case at in Maryland at Six Flags America on Sunday August 10, 2014.
Six Flags America was acquired in 1992 as the tenth park in the Six Flags park portfolio. The park is located in Upper Marlboro, Maryland less than 20 miles from Washington D.C. and approximately 30 minutes from Baltimore. The park features 54 rides including kiddie rides, carnival-like attractions and thrill rides like roller coasters.
Joker’s Jinx Rollercoaster Becomes Stuck on Its Tracks
According to local news reports and tweets made by Six Flag America’s official Twitter account, the ride stalled around 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The riders were stranded on one of the higher curves of the roller coaster. Reports have varied regarding the estimated the height of the stranded car, with low-end reports stating 45 feet from the ground while other reports approximated the height at 79 feet. The riders were rescued from the disabled rollercoaster train by firefighters in a cherry picker. It took nearly 5 hours for all of the ride’s riders to be rescued.
During the ordeal, Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor tweeted updates regarding the rescue process. At 3:52 p.m. Bashoor tweeted, “Firefighters have made face to face access with first riders – this will be a long-term rescue”. A little over an hour and a half later, Bashoor described the method that firefighters would use to rescue those stranded on the ride in tweeting, “Riders being strapped in place within each car before cars passenger restraint can be released. Then pulled 1 by 1 – 1st 2 people in a bucket.” Balshoor continued to provide updates as park guests were rescued one-by-one. At 7:10 p.m., nearly 5 hours after the ride first became stuck, Balshoor reported that all 24 riders were safely on the ground and undergoing evaluation by EMS personnel. Six Flags America’s official Twitter account confirmed the rescue tweeting, also at 7:10 p.m., “All riders safely disembarked from Jokers Jinx. The ride is closed for now. Thanks, Prince George County Fire Dept. for your help!”
How Did the Rollercoaster Become Stuck on the Tracks?
The roller coaster is equipped with a launch system and computerized safety system. The computer safety system can stop the coaster on the tracks if it detects a fault or other issue. On Sunday, the Joker’s Jinx computer safety system apparently tripped and stopped the roller coaster. Park officials were still unsure about what caused the safety system to activate, but they will certainly look into the incident. A park spokesman characterized the safety system’s activation as proper by stating that “While we are not yet sure what caused the stoppage, the ride performed as it is designed to.”
Third Major Roller Coaster Stalling Incident at a Six Flags Park this summer
This latest stalled coaster incident is the third of the summer for the Six Flags company, but first at its Maryland park. In early July the Ninja roller coaster located at Six Flags Magic Mountain in California derailed after a tree branch fell on to the coaster’s track. For roughly 3 hours, 22 people were stranded approximately 20 feet in the air. At New Jersey’s Six Flags Great Adventure a train for the Nitro rollercoaster stalled on the tracks after the ride lost power. Nitro stalled near the apex of its 230 foothill. Riders were forced to walk down the stairway next to the conveyor track that pulls the coaster’s cars to the top.
While these accidents have occurred at three separate parks, the good news is that it appears that the latest incident produced only minor injuries. While subsequent medical exams may reveal more serious issues caused by or conditions aggravated by the coaster stall, initial reports have not disclosed any injuries. However, the 4 injuries caused by the coaster accident at Magic Mountain were initially characterized as minor, but lawsuits were later filed alleging more serious injuries. One guest alleges that he suffered a traumatic brain injury due to the accident.
In this instance, the park did take steps to avoid dehydration and heat-related conditions by providing the trapped guests with food, water and sunscreen. To be clear, this latest incident is distinct from the one at Magic Mountain as, in this instance, the coaster train did not strike any debris on the track. However, whether reports of injuries emerge, will be revealed in time as people seek more thorough medical treatment from their own doctors and healthcare personnel.