Windseeker malfunctions; Carowinds riders stuck in air for hours

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Dozens of thrill seekers were suspended hundreds of feet in the air for hours Saturday afternoon when a popular Carowinds ride malfunctioned. The ride is called Windseeker.

At 301 feet, it's the tallest ride ever built at Carowinds.

Carowinds management said a problem with the safety brake caused the ride to stop working around 10 am.

About 25 riders were stranded in the air for almost three hours.

"I think it's unfortunate, given the heat that they must have been up there sitting in," said customer Kelly Neklison.

The riders were stranded near the top of the ride for a while, but crews were able to lower the riders down until they were hanging just 30 feet up. Many witnesses said these things happen at amusement parks.

"It's a mechanical object. Mechanical objects break down. And mechanics go up and fix them. And they're as good as new," said Glen Neklison.

It's not the first time this summer Carowinds crews have had to address safety hazards.

In May, crews had to replace a deck and stairs on several water slides when a structural engineer found problems.

A South Carolina state law passed last summer allows amusement park operators to hire private companies to inspect their rides.

Much of the Carowinds water park is in South Carolina and Eyewitness News learned the Windseeker ride is also in South Carolina.

Carowinds said that new law isn't affecting safety.

In a statement, a spokesman said: "Safety is Carowinds' top priority and we are committed to the protection of all our guests. All of our rides are inspected daily before they are permitted to open to the public."

But some customers said they'll now avoid the Windseeker.

"I'm definitely going to let my son know, so he's aware not to go on that ride anymore," said Shonn Hudson, who gave his 15-year-old son a season pass for his birthday.

"And I would never go on that ride again," he continued.

Witnesses told Eyewitness News they saw paramedics waiting on the ground and they had plenty of bottles of water for the riders. No one was injured.

Carowinds said this issue has never happened with the Windseeker before.

The ride is expected to reopen sometime on Sunday, after mechanics perform another round of safety checks.