The brake froze on a thrill ride at Knott’s Berry Farm on Wednesday, stranding 20 people some 300 feet in the air for nearly four hours. It was the Southern California amusement park’s second such incident in as many weeks, and the latest in a string of international malfunctions on the Dutch-made ride.
The parent company of Knott’s Berry Farm temporarily shuttered WindSeeker rides at six of its amusement parks in the U.S. and Canada while they probe what went wrong. The move came in the wake of an NBC4 I-Team investigation.
"As a precautionary measure, the Company has chosen to temporarily close its WindSeeker ride at its six park locations while it undergoes an internal review," said a statement to NBC4 from Cedar Fair Entertainment, owner of the amusement parks.
"Safety is our number one priority," the statement read. "And the company will not open a WindSeeker ride until an internal review has been completed."
WindSeekers have malfunctioned five times at four amusement parks in the past year, leaving riders perilously dangling hundreds of feet in the air:
- Crews determined that a frozen brake brought the Knott’s Berry Farm WindSeeker to a halt on Wednesday.
- On Sept. 7, an electrical relay malfunctioned, causing the Knott’s Berry Farm ride to shut down.
- Twenty-five people were stranded in the air for more than two hours when the ride at Carowinds Amusement Park in North Carolina suddenly stopped working in July.
- In June, a problem with the electrical cables on the WindSeeker at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, caused that ride to breakdown, stranding riders for more than an hour.
- A similar incident in 2011 happened on a WindSeek at Wonderful Park in Ontario, Canada.
"It’s not typical. It’s unusual, to see such a repetitiveness of issues with one type of ride," Dean Fryer, of Cal OSHA, told the NBC4 I-Team.
Cal OSHA plans to investigate whether there is a design flaw in the WindSeeker ride, Fryer said.
The WindSeeker has 32 two-person gondolas that go 301 feet up and then swing riders for a minute at a 45-degree angle at eight rotations per minute, according to the theme park's website.
Messages requesting comment from WindSeeker manufacturer, Mondial Rides of the Netherlands, were unanswered by the time of publication.