More than two dozen people stuck for 30 minutes dangling upside down at Oregon amusement park 


More than two dozen people were stuck in a perilous position for about a half-hour when an “extreme” pendulum ride at Oaks Amusement Park in Portland malfunctioned Friday afternoon, marring opening day festivities.

Belted-in riders sat upside down when the “AtmosFEAR” stopped at what park officials called its “apex position” on the 360-degree setting. Photos posted on social media showed 28 thrill-seekers suspended in their seats with their feet pointing toward the sky.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Daniel Allen, 17. He was at the park to celebrate his high school graduation.

As he first waited in line for the swinging ride, he said he reassured his friend, Jordan Harding, 18, that there was nothing to be afraid of. But when they were stuck in the air, he said he started to cry, thinking of the people he would miss and things in life he wouldn’t get to do.

He and Harding embraced as they got off the ride. Allen said he also called his mother.

Oaks Park said in a statement that the ride got stuck about 2:55 p.m., park staff called 911 and began unspecified emergency procedures and rescuers with the Portland Fire Bureau arrived at 3:20 p.m. as the park closed. Minutes later, park maintenance workers returned the AtmosFEAR to the ground.

One person with pre-existing medical conditions was taken to the hospital as a precaution and no one else was injured, authorities said.

The Southeast Portland park’s website describes the AtmosFEAR as a “showstopping extreme attraction” and one of its most popular. It is two rides in one: an 180-degree pendulum ride or the “over-the-top thrill of the 360° ride,” according to the website.

A link to the ride says it operates with “circulating and oscillating up and down motion.” It swings people 50 feet into the air at 180 degrees and 99 feet in the air at 360 degrees with “full inversions.”

Illya Plaksey, 44, said most of the people trapped on the ride appeared to be Portland Public Schools students celebrating the final day of classes. At first, the riders seemed in good spirits — but as the minutes ticked on he said he could hear the sounds of their phones and shoes dropping as a girl shouted out for “help!”

“The staff was not prepared,” Plaksey said. “Finally, they announced that the park was closed because of everything going on. A few of the people (on the ride) really freaked out.”

Vanita Ralstin said she called 911 when she was watching the ride and realized it had stopped moving. She heard riders screaming and then turning silent as they remained trapped.

Plaksey said he and his 8-year-old son were still in the parking lot trying to leave when the ride was lowered rapidly. Multiple fire engines and at least three ambulances were on scene.

“When they fixed it, it dropped them abruptly,” he said.

The cause of the apparent mechanical failure is unknown. The Oaks Park statement said the ride has operated since 2021 without incident until now. It will remain closed until further notice.

“Oaks Park Management was in immediate contact with the manufacturer and will work with both the manufacturer and state inspectors to identify the cause of the stoppage,” the statement said. It noted that an emergency training had been held at the ride last year as a standard procedure.

Oaks Park is Oregon’s oldest existing amusement park, opening two days before the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition on May 30, 1905. In addition to rides, it also has mini-golf, midway carnival games and an indoor skating rink.

Oaks Park marketing director Emily MacKay on Friday evening thanked the first responders, its staff and park visitors who made way for rescuers — and “most of all, we are thankful that the riders are safe and with their families.”

The park said it will offer refunds or rescheduling to people whose visit was cut short. Oaks Park officials asked people to keep their ride bracelets to help with the process. People can contact the Oaks Park’s administration office at 503-233-5777 Monday through Friday or email, the statement said.

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