With just two more weeks left in Cedar Point's 2012 season, the fate of the park's WindSeeker ride remains up in the air although fans of the 301-foot-tall thrill ride probably won't be airborne on it any time soon.
The WindSeeker at Cedar Point, and copies of the ride at five other parks owned by Cedar Point's parent company, Cedar Fair LP, have been grounded since Sept. 21 while the parent firm conducts a review as to what has caused malfunctions this summer on WindSeeker rides at parks in Ohio, South Carolina, and California.
The WindSeeker malfunctioned on June 2 at Cedar Point in Sandusky, stranding 29 riders halfway up the ride for an hour. On July 14 a WindSeeker at Cedar Fair's Carowinds amusement park near Charlotte on the border between North and South Carolina stranded 25 riders 30 feet off the ground for more than two hours.
The most recent incident was in September at Knott's Berry Farm park near Los Angeles. The WindSeeker ride, which spins riders in swings atop a 301-foot tower, stopped working on Sept. 7, stranding 15 riders, then malfunctioned a second time on Sept. 19, leaving 20 riders stuck 300 feet up for nearly four hours. The riders had to be removed by rescue workers.
Cedar Fair indefinitely shut down those three rides, plus WindSeekers at Kings Island near Cincinnati, Kings Dominion near Richmond, Va., and Canada's Wonderland near Toronto pending its internal review.
The WindSeekers at Cedar Point, Kings Island, Knott's Berry Farm, and Canada's Wonderland opened in 2011; the ones at Carowinds and Kings Dominion opened this year.
South Carolina amusement ride inspectors in July found no problems with the WindSeeker related to the July 15 incident at Carowinds.
California inspectors have ordered the ride at Knott's to stay shut until concerns about the ride's braking system and a rider evacuation plan are resolved, according to the Rock Hill (S.C.) Herald.
Brad Gates, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Amusement Ride Safety division, said state inspectors have not been asked by Cedar Fair, Cedar Point, or Kings Island to inspect or help with the review of the WindSeekers at the two Ohio parks.
Annie Zelm, a spokesman for Cedar Point, said Cedar Fair has given no indication whether it will complete the review before the season ends on Oct. 28.
"As far as I know, the ride for us is still down and the WindSeeker is down across the company. I'm just not sure at this time when that will change," she said. "It's just a matter of waiting on that review and as soon as the company feels confident about reopening that ride, we will."
Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc. of Cincinnati, said his sources have told him that Cedar Fair has found no evidence of a mechanical problem with its WindSeeker rides, "but they haven't figured out what the situation is."
"It's not unusual for a company, if they have multiple rides and they have a problem, to shut them all down. It's prudent, it's appropriate, and I've seen it done at Six Flags and when Paramount owned its parks," Mr. Speigel said. "They want to know what the issue is before they let people ride again."
Mr. Speigel speculated that the WindSeeker, like many other rides, likely is malfunctioning because of a software problem rather than a mechanical one.
"Rides are so much more sophisticated today. One little software issue can shut a whole coaster down," he said.
Jon Chavez - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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