Stuck roller coaster riders rescued at Busch Gardens - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

Stuck roller coaster riders rescued at Busch Gardens

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Tampa Fire Rescue ladder truck assists in retrieving passengers from Cheetah Hunt roller coaster (Courtesy @FireRescueTampa) Tampa Fire Rescue ladder truck assists in retrieving passengers from Cheetah Hunt roller coaster (Courtesy @FireRescueTampa)
Tampa Fire Rescue used a ladder truck to rescue people trapped on a ride. TFR photo Tampa Fire Rescue used a ladder truck to rescue people trapped on a ride. TFR photo
Tampa Fire Rescue used a ladder truck to rescue people trapped on a ride. TFR photo Tampa Fire Rescue used a ladder truck to rescue people trapped on a ride. TFR photo
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) - Busch Gardens park staff believe the safety system on the Cheetah Hunt roller coaster caused it to come to a stop Wednesday, right in the middle of an afternoon rainstorm.  They are not sure why.

Tampa Fire Rescue received the call from the park at 4:01 Wednesday afternoon after a train filled with 16 passengers stopped just outside of the station where it started.

Rescue teams started removing the first passenger at 4:46. The last was off the coaster at 5:48.

"They were sitting on that ride and they were at an angle - probably 30 degrees - so just unbuckling them raised some anxiety for both the passengers and for our people," said Chief Emilio Salabarria, who is over Tampa Fire Rescue Special Operations.

Busch Gardens had a cherry picker onsite, and was able to get those guests ponchos.  However, the storms rolling through caused more concern than that.

"We knew there were lightning strikes nearby so we were monitoring the lightning. Every 5 minutes, we were getting reports from our dispatch," said Chief Salabarria. "The closest one got to about 3 miles. We really thought about shutting down operations, but we continued."

Salabarria said passengers on the ride ranged from teenagers up to about 70 years old.

"We were able to put a nice harness on them before we moved them and got them in the buckets," he said.

Jason Penny, Public Information Officer for Tampa Fire Rescue, said everyone on the train showed patience with rescuers.

"We have no reported injuries. No one was taken to the hospital," he said as Tampa Fire Rescue was leaving the park around 6:34 p.m. "Everyone came off. Once they got on the ground, they walk away under their own power."

Cheetah Hunt is Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's newest coaster. It opened in May 2011 and launches people from sitting at the station to 38 miles an hour.

Figuring out what went wrong with it might take some time. It's the longest coaster in the park at 4,400 feet. There are 283 sensors on the ride.

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