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Faltering Fair Ride Turns Away Potential Riders

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A 200-foot-tall State Fair ride was temporarily shut down Friday after breaking down several times in the last two days.

The Stratosphere is a swing ride that spins around as it takes riders into the air. But it stopped working three times while people were on it, causing the ride operator to slowly lower it to get people off.

Nobody was hurt, but the ride is temporarily out of service until maintenance crews can figure out what’s wrong.

“It was really scary. I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” said one rider who was stuck on the Stratosphere for 45 minutes.

It was nearly an hour of sitting about 150 feet in the air. The ride has stalled out three times with riders on it and another time it stalled for about 20 minutes before operators were able to lower riders back down.

You might be asking: Is it safe?

“Absolutely it’s safe,” said Joe Bixler of International Leisure Consulting, a company that inspects rides. “It’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing. It faults out and says: I’ve got a problem.”

Bixler said in two cases the faults have been from high wind speeds, the other two were electrical and mechanical.

The Stratosphere is a new ride that came from the Netherlands, and was used for the first time at the Wisconsin State Fair last week. There, it broke down six times.

“It’s like driving a car. You get used to what your car is doing or not doing,” Bixler said. “You drive it and then you have a better understanding. That’s where we are at today.”

After the Stratosphere stalled out at 4 p.m. Friday, people were no longer allowed on it. Test runs followed throughout the night. If it breezes through Saturday morning’s test runs, riders will be allowed back on.

Whether riders decide to get on remains to be seen.

“Kind of looks entertaining, but I’m not going on it,” said one fair-goer. “Not with the record so far.”

The Stratosphere and every ride at the State Fair is operated three times every morning with no one on them to make sure they are running smoothly. Plus, operators have to follow the manufacturer’s checklist, too.

There are 77 rides at the Midway, and none can run until a safety checklist is turned in each morning.

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