A ferris wheel at Adventure Island in a London, England, suburb stopped when the park closed Monday night at 10 pm, as it does every night. Except this time, there was one slight difference. When the Big Wheel ride shut down a family of five was still on board, at the very top of the ferris wheel — hanging 50 feet in the air, in the dark.
“We couldn’t believe it. We were at the top of the wheel when the lights went out and staff started shutting the lights down on all the rides just before 10pm,” said 35-year-old dad Darren Riggs-Long, who was left dangling in the aerial cage with his wife Lynzie, 37, an their three sons ages 10, six and three. “It was cold and really dark. We were calling out for about 15 minutes before a member of the public spotted us.”
While apologetic, the park disputed the Riggs-Long family’s claim that they were stranded for a quarter-hour before anyone came to their rescue.
A spokesperson for the Southend-on-Sea amusement park later said that the park’s own surveillance camera footage showed that the family was left alone at the top of the ferris wheel for no more than two minutes and 38 seconds.
The park also blamed the incident on a single employee who just forgot to check to be sure everyone was off the ferris wheel before shutting it down. But Lynzie Riggs-Long says that the employee wasn’t the problem.
“They were extremely apologetic and have said the attendant will be disciplined, but I don’t blame her – she was just a young girl,” said the mom. “I blame Adventure Island and the training they give youngsters.”
As for their own youngsters, the parents say the kids are still freaking out more than a day after being left to hang on the top of the ferris wheel.
“The children are traumatized,” Darren Riggs-Long, of North London, said. “Lewis woke up in the night crying and Kieran woke up shouting ‘get me down.'”
The family says it won’t be headed back to Adventure Island anytime soon. In fact, the Riggs-Longs aborted what was supposed to be a four-day vacation, thanks to the ferris wheel trauma.
Adventure Island said that the family was never in any real danger.
“A member of staff was at the ride the entire time this was taking place to reassure them we were going to resolve the issue as swiftly as possible, which we did,” a spokesperson said.
The situation could have been worse. The family could have been on the SkyView ferris wheel in Atlanta, which stands 200 feet tall.
The Adventure Island Big Wheel got a £200,000 — $340,000 — facelift earlier this year.