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March 23, 2010

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Happy Valley panic as coaster stalls during ride

HAPPY Valley, Shanghai's biggest amusement park, which opened last summer with a rash of roller-coaster failures, is still bringing some visitors panic rather than happiness.

More than 30 people on Sunday afternoon had to climb down from the park's biggest roller coaster, the Diving Coaster, after they were stranded 20 meters above the ground for more than 10 minutes.

Visitors said yesterday that they asked the staff to stop the roller coaster after it halted twice for no reason shortly after it started, but the staff wouldn't listen to them, insisting that the coaster was safe enough.

"And then, after the roller coaster halted for the third time, we had to stay in the air for more than 10 minutes, and some young women were scared to tears," said a visitor surnamed Wang, who had finally calmed down enough to talk to the media.

Two staff members eventually climbed up to the visitors and loosened the security device. The visitors were able to get down through a narrow staircase.

"After getting down to earth, one of my schoolmate's legs felt like jelly and couldn't help sitting on the ground," Wang said.

The visitors asked for compensation from the park, but the park refused at first. After three hours' negotiation, officials eventually agreed to refund customers' tickets or one-year passes.

OCT Group, Happy Valley's developers, said they were still investigating the case.

They speculated that a cell phone might have fallen into the coaster, causing it to halt. And as they did when explaining roller coaster failures at the park last August, they said that some glitches are to be expected.

"The facility was too sensitive," said Xiao Dezhong, deputy director of the group. "Such incidents may occur to every roller coaster in the world, no matter in Happy Valley or in Disneyland."

Xiao said the company cannot ensure that their roller coasters to be problem-free, but he emphasized that the facilities aren't dangerous.

During the soft-opening period, people complained that sometimes the roller coasters in the park were "scary" because of uncertain stops. But the Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision said their tests showed the facilities were safe.


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