A woman who, along with her two daughters and three others, was trapped on a ‘chair-o-plane’ ride in Waterford for more than 90 minutes has described the terror they felt, suspended high above the ground on the jerking machinery.
Ann Hoctor told how she and her friend Amanda Brewer and their children thought when they got onto the ride in Tramore Amusement Park on Tuesday evening, that they would be off again in five minutes.
“It goes up in the air and spins around and around and you can see the whole lot, the bay, the cliff, lighthouses, everything,” she said. “We had seen it during the day and thought it would be great fun.”
Ms Hoctor described the moment she knew something was not right.
“We were spinning and around and got a little jerk and thought we were going down,” she told RTÉ radio’s Liveline programme. “It went down half way and jerked again and went right back up to the top and that is where we were for nearly two hours. We got a jerk when we stopped and I just looked across to ... Amanda and I knew there was something wrong.”
She said a man “climbed up the middle of the tower and said there was a sensor broke or something — that it wouldn’t take him five minutes to fix it and then we would be back down then.”
Ms Hoctor said 20 minutes later, the man began to make his way back down.
“I said ‘what’s the story?’ and he said ‘I am going down to find out, don’t worry about it, you’ll get free passes to the park now.’ I said straight out: ‘Me or my kids will never be on this or anything again in this park’.”
The Offaly native said the children began to panic when they saw emergency vehicles coming. “[They said] ‘Why are they coming? Why can’t they get us down? Are we going to fall? Are we going to hurt ourselves?’ We were saying ‘look out there, look at the seagulls. Silly talk, trying to keep their minds off it.”
Finally, fire crews were able to get up to the women and get them onto a platform to bring them back to the ground.
“We had to open the strap ourselves, lift the bar and the two firemen helped us out then,” she said. “They were lovely talking us through it.”
Frank King, manager of Tramore Amusement Park, said the machine had been grounded. “It will be grounded until such time as it re-certified and that I am happy that experienced engineers can assure me that it is functional and safe to operate,” he said.
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