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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

28 riders stuck upside down on amusement park ride for about 30 minutes

An aerial view of Oaks Amusement Park, in Portland, on April 20, 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The park closed to the public during the stay-home order.  (Brooke Herbert/Brooke Herbert/The Oregonian/OregonLive)
By Ben Brasch Washington Post

PORTLAND – Happy screams turned to terrified screams within minutes of an Oregon amusement park ride malfunctioning Friday, leaving more than two dozen people hanging upside down – 50 feet in the air – for almost 30 minutes.

The AtmosFEAR ride – described as a “showstopping extreme attraction” – at Oaks Amusement Park in Portland stopped at its highest point about 2:55 p.m., the park said in a statement. First responders arrived about 15 minutes later, Portland Fire & Rescue said, and worked with park staff members to lower the 28 riders to the ground as onlookers clapped.

One rider with a pre-existing medical condition was taken to a hospital as a precaution, while others were released by medics, the park said.

The incident’s cause was unclear Saturday. Park managers said they were in contact with the ride’s manufacturer and would work with state inspectors to identify the problem.

“We wish to express our deepest appreciation to the first responders and our staff for taking prompt action,” the park’s statement said. “Most of all, we are thankful that the riders are safe and with their families.”

The park, which opened in 1905, describes AtmosFEAR as “an exciting ride with circulating and oscillating up and down motion.” The incident Friday was the ride’s first safety issue since opening in 2021, Oaks Park said. It said first responders practiced a rescue on the ride last year.

Illya Plaksey, 44, said he was in line for a neighboring ride when he saw AtmosFEAR come to a halt. Thirty seconds went by. Then a minute.

After a few more minutes, Plaksey said, a staff member announced that help was on the way. Staff members later announced that the park was closed and asked visitors to leave.

As a crowd stared up at the trapped riders, cellphones began falling to the ground and riders yelled for help, Plaksey said. He said most of the riders appeared to be teens.

LaVina Waters, 50, was at the Oaks Park arcade with her children and grandchildren when a woman ran in, yelling that people were stuck in the air. Waters went outside to join the crowd that had gathered to watch the riders awaiting rescue.

Seeing a shoe drop from one of the dangling riders reaffirmed to Waters that tall attractions like AtmosFEAR are not for her, she said.

“I wasn’t on it,” Waters said, “but it’s scary to me.”

AtmosFEAR is closed until further notice.