My secret fear about riding the Ferris wheel at the county fair is that right when my family reaches the top, some critical part of the machinery will fail, triggering a catastrophic series of events that eventually result in the wheel breaking loose and rolling across the fairgrounds before it crushes us flat. Yes, I realize this is an unlikely scenario, but my second fear -- that the wheel will simply stop, leaving us dangling in the breeze for some horrible amount of time -- actually seems fairly rooted in realty. Take for instance the Riggs-Long family who recently got stopped more than 50 feet in the air on a Ferris wheel and were convinced they'd be stuck there overnight.
The craziest part about this story is that the Ferris wheel didn't malfunction. Instead, workers had simply shut it down, along with the lights, as they prepared to close the park.
The family was riding the "Big Wheel" at the Adventure Island amusement park east of London when the ride stopped. According to dad Darren Riggs-Long,
We couldn't believe it. We were at the top of the wheel when the lights went out and staff started shutting the lights down on all the rides just before 10 p.m. It was cold and really dark. We were calling out for about 15 minutes before a member of the public spotted us.
Riggs-Long says his kids -- 10, 6, and 3 years old -- were scared that they'd have to spend the night waiting for help. While an attendant eventually started the ride so the family could get off, the dad says his boys are still re-living the incident.
The children are traumatized. Lewis woke up in the night crying and Kieran woke up shouting 'get me down'.
Fifteen minutes of sitting in the dark on a Ferris wheel calling for help sounds awful ... but the park is claiming that even though they did make a mistake by shutting down the ride without ensuring that all the passengers were off, the family's situation wasn't nearly as dire as they're making it sound:
We are sorry that Riggs-Long family were unfortunately left for a very short amount of time (2mins and 58 seconds according to CCTV) at the top of the Ferris Wheel and have offered them wristbands and meals to make up for this. A member of staff was at the ride the entire time this was taking place to reassure them we were going to resolve the issue as swiftly as possible, which we did.
I'm kind of thinking the park's side of the story is probably closer to the truth. But I can also imagine that sitting on a dead Ferris wheel at night for ANY length of time would feel nearly endless.
It's possible the family is gearing up to sue, particularly since they've stated they had to cut their four-day vacation short as a result of the trauma. The park probably should have offered more than free rides ("We promise this time we won't turn it off!") once they saw how upset they were, and at this point they better hope that security footage supports their claims about the timing.
How freaked out would you be if this happened to you?
Image via whatleydude/Flickr