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October 21, 2013

20 riders rescued from atop roller coaster

SUMMIT TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A ride on Conneaut Lake Park's famed Blue Streak normally takes two minutes and 20 seconds, but on Saturday night, 20 people were stuck on the roller coaster for nearly five hours.

A passenger car came to a halt on the crest of a hill of the wooden roller coaster around 9:10 p.m., leading to a rescue operation by three volunteer fire departments.

The car stopped because a piece of its braking system got stuck on one of the track rails, Chief Gig King of Summit Township Volunteer Fire Department said Sunday.

"Nobody was hurt, but it took time to get everybody off safely," King said.

The Blue Streak, marking its 75th anniversary this year, is one of two wooden roller coasters by famed roller coaster designer Ed Vettel that still is operating in the United States.

April Hartle, a registered nurse, said she and her husband were "stuck on it for hours."

"Safety brakes locked us in place and we could not move," Hartle told The Meadville Tribune via Facebook. "The park's owner climbed up himself and talked us threw (sic) this. The firefighters took each and every person safely to the ground. It took awhile because all 20 of us had to climb down 50 feet."

Firemen had to chain and strap the car in place so it wouldn’t slip when firemen helped people out of the ride one at a time, King said. It was about 2 a.m. Sunday before the last rescue units had cleared the scene.

The Blue Streak had been operating Saturday night as part of Ghost Lake 13 Levels of Fear, the park's fall amusement program, according to Jack Moyers, chairman of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.

Mechanics are working to repair the ride and hope to have it inspected and back in operation for Friday night.

Gushard writes for The Meadville (Pa.) Tribune.

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