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Published: Wednesday, 8/1/2001

Cedar Point shuts same ride involved in Michigan mishap

FROM BLADE STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS

SANDUSKY - Cedar Point officials closed down a popular ride yesterday in the wake of an accident at a Michigan amusement park that sent more than two dozen people to the hospital.

About 30 riders were rescued from the Chaos ride late Monday at Michigan's Adventure Amusement Park.

The guests were trapped for nearly five hours on the ride when its large wheel holding passenger cars fell to the ground.

The park, about 41 miles northwest of Grand Rapids, Mich., is owned by Sandusky-based Cedar Fair LP, which also owns Cedar Point.

A Cedar Fair official said until the accident is investigated fully, the company chose to close down Chaos at the Sandusky park and Park Valley fair in Minneapolis.

“The real point is to determine what caused the incident at Michigan's Adventure and to see if that same scenario could happen at the other parks,” Brian Witherow, corporate director of investor relations at Cedar Fair, said. “We decided to close all three of the rides until the results of the full investigation were complete.”

Cedar Fair owns six amusement parks and five water parks throughout the country. Chaos, a ride built by Chance Rides in Wichita, Kan., is only at the three parks.

The ride's large wheel, which holds passenger cars at its rim, begins spinning horizontally and rises to a vertical position as it gains speed, until it resembles a speeding Ferris wheel. Officials said the wheel came off its spindle at about 6:30 p.m. and came to rest in a nearly vertical position, with some riders hanging sideways in their two-passenger cars and others stuck at the top of the wheel.

Michigan's Adventure Vice President Camille Jourden-Mark said a similar accident has never occurred at the amusement park. She added that all park rides are inspected daily, and inspectors found no problems with the ride Monday.

Mike McFarland, who was standing next to the ride operator when the accident happened, said he was “shocked and terrified” because his 13-year-old daughter was on the ride.

“They were lucky nobody got hit when it hit the ground because pieces were flying everywhere like missiles. They got real lucky,” Mr. McFarland said.

Rescuers had to wait three hours to remove passengers because authorities feared the wheel was unstable and would fall over, Chief Kevin Blanchard of the White Lake Fire Authority, said.

Cranes and cherry-pickers were used to remove people from cars that were high in the air. All but two of the trapped passengers were taken to hospitals.

Of the 31 riders taken to hospitals, 28 had been released by yesterday morning.

Chaos holds 36 riders, Mr. Witherow said. He was not sure how many daily passengers rode the attraction at Cedar Point.



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