Terrified parents were left clinging onto their children while suspended 20ft in the air "for at least 90 minutes" after a fairground ride malfunctioned, an eyewitness claims. Youngsters could be heard screaming for help after they were left dangling from the broken down rollercoaster at Pleasureland in Southport, Merseyside on Saturday.
Visitors watched on in horror as one girl was "carried off the ride unconscious" before her panicked father climbed off soon after during the Bank Holiday incident. Michael Bowman, 57, who was on a day out at the park with his wife Christine, 35, and their eight-year-old son, says two other rides also experienced technical issues.
The family soon left the park over safety concerns. The dad, from Stoke-on-Trent, told the Mirror : "We walked towards The Rocket and I thought something's not right there. All of a sudden a cherry picker came past us and all staff were guiding people out the way.
"We looked up and said 'Oh my God, it's stuck all the way round'. You could see that it was on an angle and they were all leaning.
"The parents had hold of the children because they were leaning out of the carriage on the bend. People were just stood watching in shock.
"We know that a young girl had passed out and the father was trying to climb over the barrier out of the ride to get to his daughter. You could see the worry in the father's face.
"The ambulance was on its way at that point. They must have been up there a good hour and a half."
He claimed that they were stranded at least 20ft in the air. Maintenance teams for Pleasureland were rushed to the scene and began rescuing the 19 people trapped on the 22-person capacity ride with a cherry picker.
Paramedics and fire crews were also called to the scene on Marine Drive in Southport, Merseyside and one child was rushed to hospital with a head injury. Pleasureland claimed that all other rides were working normally but had to be stopped and reset as a result of the fault with The Rocket coaster.
But Michael said he's now waiting for a £72 refund after telling staff the rides were unsafe - claiming he watched two more people evacuated from the Log Flume. Michael added: "I said to my son 'Do you want to go on the carousel swings for a bit?', but the guy said 'Sorry mate, it's stopped working. It's got technical issues'.
"We said we might as well go on the Log Flume then. We looked up and couldn't believe it, the Log Flume was stuck and a member of staff was walking two people down the wooden ramp down the side.
"I saw a member of staff in a shirt and tie walk past and I said 'Excuse me mate, you can have these wristbands back we want a refund - three rides in two hours have all failed, I'm not taking a chance and going on any of your rides'."
Among the rescued passengers, 17 were given precautionary checks by paramedics. Merseyside Fire and Rescue said the ride was to be isolated while a full inspection was carried out, which Pleasureland said it was still conducting today (Sunday).
A spokesperson for Pleasureland said: "We are sorry for the distress caused to passengers on one of our coasters yesterday. Our immediate priority was looking after everyone’s safe removal from the ride.
"Senior management and maintenance team members are today continuing a thorough investigation into carriages stopping on the park’s Rocket Coaster yesterday morning. All routine maintenance checks had been carried out, as they are on all rides each morning, before the ride went into commission.
"The ride did exactly what its safety settings are programmed to do and stopped on detecting a fault. It was the first run of the day and the ride, which has a 22-person capacity, was loaded with 19 riders.
“No one was at any risk of falling from the ride, the carriages were secure on the track and the park’s operations director immediately made his way up the gantry to speak to riders and explain that they would be brought off the ride safely, as part of the park’s instant response safety process.
"At the same time, the maintenance crew was further immobilising carriages to ensure passengers’ safe exit from the ride via one of the park’s cherry pickers. A young girl who had lost consciousness was the team’s priority, and immediately checked by ambulance paramedics.
"That first-response healthcare team was available to other passengers. On seeing how the park was handling the situation and safely retrieving passengers, the fire brigade commended the team, took no action and left the scene.
“As a consequence of calling maintenance staff to attend the coaster, one or two of the other rides were off for a very short while during the day. This is because the systems require reset buttons to be pressed – something that is maintenance’s responsibility. This represented a very short disruption.
“The log flume was working normally. The carriages pause to allow proceeding carriages to clear before the next one is released. This is normal running. Our priority is always safety and our team checks and maintains rides, and trains to keep emergency procedures front of mind, should they be needed, so they are delivered fast and effectively. Once again we apologise to our passengers.”
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