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Published: Wednesday, 7/14/2004

Cedar Point shuts down coaster after riders hurt

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Cedar Point's Top Thrill Dragster was expected to remain closed today after four riders were injured on it Monday night.

While on the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster, two male and two female passengers were hit with small pieces of metal and debris that deflected off the cable used to launch riders to a height of 420 feet at speeds of up to 120 mph, Cedar Point spokesman Janice Witherow said.

The incident happened at the Sandusky park about 8:20 p.m. at the train's launch. The train completed its route and has been shut down since then, Ms. Witherow said.

"There's nothing more important at Cedar Point than the safety of our guests and the safety of our employees," she said.

The four injured passengers were treated at Cedar Point's first aid station for abrasions mainly on their arms, and one male rider had cuts on his face, Ms. Witherow said.

All four were released into the park after declining precautionary transportation to a nearby hospital, although two guests later sought further treatment on their own, she added.

The $25 million coaster has been plagued by mechanical glitches and cable problems

since it opened May 4, 2003.

A cable that helps launch the coaster came loose May 26, 2003 - 22 days after the ride's debut - resulting in several days of downtime.

A week later, on June 6, a faulty valve on the hydraulic system that launches the Top Thrill Dragster out of its station forced the ride to close during Cedar Point's annual CoasterMania event for coaster enthusiasts.

Two weeks later, from June 20, 2003, to July 4, 2003, the ride laid dormant because of continual hydraulic system problems.

This year, a strand on the cable that controls the ride's "catch car," part of the ride's launch mechanism, came loose in the afternoon of June 5. The train safely completed its cycle and the cable was replaced overnight by maintenance employees, allowing the ride to reopen the next day.

"Certainly it's disappointing all of us at Cedar Point that our guests are not able to experience the ride," Ms. Witherow said, adding that the staff feels more confident in its operation the more it runs. "We sympathize with guests, but we have to continue to work out some bugs."

Cedar Point staff members are waiting for a new cable to install on the ride and will be doing routine inspections before it opens again for the general public, Ms. Witherow said.

She added that although she doesn't know exactly when the ride will reopen, she encourages guests to look at the posted signs at the entrance gates or to call the general information line for updates.

Contact Erika Ray at:

eray@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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