No Crack Seen in 2001: 33 Injured on Michigan Amusement Park Ride
Imagine walking into an amusement park. The excitement you feel, the nerves that build up on the car ride there and are only magnified once you exit the car in the parking lot and hear the all-familiar 'clack, clack' mixed in with the screams of thrill seekers. Once you near the gate you can smell the food court and feel the sun on your face...it's going to be a good day.
Then imagine making a beeline for your favorite ride, Chaos. It's just as it sounds, chaotic. Imagine a Ferris Wheel on its side, the carriages on its side and rotating 360 degrees backward and forwards. It starts to rotate horizontally when you are slowly lifted into the air as the wheel tilts to almost its vertical axis, then the ride is injected with jet fuel and you spend the next 90 seconds or so spinning and rotating. Now imagine that ride having a catastrophic malfunction while you and someone you love is sitting next to you, knowing you are helpless and at the mercy of physics.
Michigan's Scariest Amusement Park Accident
Note: The photos used in this story are not from the actual day, they are used to show the sequence of events.
It was July 30, 2001 and 33 parkgoers had no idea their day would end in a hospital. As nearly 3 dozen people were locked into their over-the-shoulder harnesses', that familiar feeling of anticipation and fear built in their stomachs. The ride operator returns to his control panel and slowly the ride began to rotate.
As the ride picks up speed it also lifts off the ground, gaining more speed.
At this point, the picks up speed and begins to tilt vertically. Keep in mind cars are rotating on a separate axis from the main carousel.
It is at this point that witnesses say the catastrophic malfunction occurred according to a report from CNN on the day of the accident:
"When the thing broke loose, it almost spun like a wheel," said Don Reaume, who was watching as the accident occurred.
Kevin Blanchard, the fire chief of White Lake who responded to the scene, described his take on the scene to the cable news outlet as well:
"Something happened to the center pivot, and the ride then fell. I don't know how far it fell before it actually hit the ground," he said.
Let's take a look at the area where the 'center pivot' he references is on the Chaos ride:
Rescue and Recovery Efforts for Michigan's Worst Amusement Park Accident
Imagine being on that ride when the 'center pivot' failed and you were helpless, strapped in, and could only wait until gravity took its course.
31 people were evacuated almost immediately while the remaining two would have to wait 9 hours while a crane was brought in to stabilize the collapsed structure. Once they were confident it was safe, the jaws of life were used to extract them. CNN provided more details on the extent of the injury:
Stuart Jones, a spokesman for Hackley Hospital, said they were expecting 16 people, most with minor injuries. He said five of the injuries were serious but not life-threatening.
Tim Bulson, a spokesman for Spectrum Health, said one or two of the most seriously injured people were to be airlifted to the Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, about 40 miles away.
Mike McFarland, who was standing next to the ride operator waiting for his daughter to get off Chaos, explained to the Deseret News that the accident could have been much worse:
"They were lucky nobody got hit when it hit the ground, because pieces were flying everywhere like missiles. They got real lucky,"
Michigan's Adventure shut down all of the Chaos rides in the park following the accident and completely removed them from the park in 2002. You can see raw footage of the aftermath of the event below:
I wonder, maybe you do too, if any of these people ever entered an amusement park again, let alone ever set foot on "Chaos" ever again.