Two roller coaster riders fell 34 feet (10 meters) when their car derailed and was left dangling from the track, and firefighters used ladders to pull eight others to safety high above the Daytona Beach Boardwalk.
“The front car which was holding four passengers completely came off the tracks,” said Daytona Beach Fire spokeswoman Sasha Staton.
Two of the four fell from the Sand Blaster ride Thursday night and suffered traumatic injuries, while “the other two were still in the car dangling,” she said.
Fire department photos show the red car hanging at an odd, perpendicular angle, with another car jammed behind it.
In videos posted on social media by witnesses, two people can be seen dangling from the car’s seats and metal scaffolding beneath the track. Bystanders gathered under the passengers, stretching out their hands to assure them that help was coming.
“Two people done fell out and clanked their head on the ground,” Matt Campbell of Knoxville, Tennessee, said in a video of the scene that he posted online.
Campbell and some relatives had been planning to ride the roller coaster, which looked fast but not too extreme for the younger children in the family. It had been raining but the storm seemed to have passed. As they walked toward the ride, they heard a loud bang and saw the front car jump off the track, he said.
“The car was banging against the rails real hard as it came around the turn,” Campbell said. “We noticed it wasn’t just a normal banging of the roller coaster going down the track, that’s what made us look up.”
Campbell said he and his relatives dropped what was in their hands, breaking his sunglasses and spilling their sodas on the ground, to rush toward the ride. He said he saw two women fall from the front car, while a man and a woman appeared to be dangling and stuck between that car and the metal scaffolding under the track.
As some people warned those passengers not to move before rescuers arrived, Campbell said a ride worker grabbed a ladder to help the injured who were hanging above the ground. Firefighters climbed up to rescue them as well as six other passengers in two cars that were still on the track.
“They had to use the tower ladder to get to them and then bring them on board and guide them safely back down,” Staton said.
Nine passengers were taken to the hospital, but hospital officials wouldn’t provide updates on their conditions due to privacy concerns, said Tangela Boyd, a spokeswoman for Halifax Health Medical Center.
The accident is under investigation.
“We don’t know what happened,” Staton said.
The ride had passed a state inspection just hours before the derailment, according to a statement Friday from Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services spokeswoman Jennifer Meale.
“Department inspectors conducted a thorough inspection of the ride, and it was found in compliance with state law,” Meale said.
Meale added that “anyone who should be held accountable will be held accountable.”
Roller coaster databases show the Sand Blaster had operated in four other locations in its four-decade history. The ride opened at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk in 2013. Before that, it was at the Blue Diamond Amusement Park in New Castle, Delaware, where the ride was called the Blue Diamond Streak.
The coaster operated at DelGrosso’s Amusement Park in Tipton, Pennsylvania, and before that, the coaster was at Legend City in Phoenix, Arizona. It originated at Adventureland Park in Addison, Illinois, according to Ultimate Rollercoaster.com.
This story corrects attribution of statement from Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to spokeswoman Jennifer Meale, not Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Kay reported from Miami.