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January 25, 2011

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Happy Valley scare for 25 riders

THRILL seekers at a Shanghai amusement park got more than they bargained for yesterday when they were left suspended more than 60 meters above the ground after a roller-coaster malfunctioned.

There were 25 riders on the Diving Coaster at the Happy Valley park in Songjiang District when it came to a sudden stop. The park said the cold weather might have caused a sensor to shut off the power as a safety measure.

Riders were stranded in the air for about half an hour. They used an emergency stairway to get down, said Xiao Dezhong, deputy director of Shenzhen-based OCT Group, Happy Valley's operator.

There were no children on board when the ride failed at about 12:55pm and no reports of any injuries.

The roller-coaster has several circular and semi-circular loops and features a steep plunge from 65 meters at the end of the ride.

"It took 30 minutes for us to escape and there were a lot people on board. It's hard to imagine that we had even intended to grab a front-row seat," one passenger said, recalling the feeling of panic when the ride stopped.

"The carriage had just climbed over its highest point and was readying for a plunge down to the ground when the roller-coaster suddenly stopped," Xiao said.

The breakdown was triggered by a false safety alert, he said. "The investigation showed a sensor device on the coaster broke off by itself, generating a safety alert to suspend the machine from operating automatically."

Xiao said there were many such sensors installed across the facility in order to detect safety problems in time and suspend operations accordingly.

In an official statement issued yesterday evening, the park's management said the cold and icy weather "might be connected with the accidental breakdown of the sensor, which caused the system to suspend operation."

The ride was back in action after 3pm. Despite the earlier scare, there was hardly an empty seat to be found.

The amusement park has been troubled by several roller-coaster failures since its soft-opening in July 2009.

The Diving Coaster, the highest of the sky riding machines at the park and one of the highest in the world, suffered a similar breakdown last March.

More than 30 people were stranded after it stopped on March 21, after someone dropped a cell phone.

And there were a number of reports from visitors of breakdowns on other rides during the park's early months in the summer of 2009.


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