BOWIE, Md. - Two dozen people stuck high atop a roller coaster at the Six Flags America theme park in Bowie, Maryland, have been rescued after a rescue operation that took over three hours. Prince George's County fire officials say a total of 24 riders were aboard the Joker's Jinx coaster when it stalled.
The riders were stuck about 100 feet in the air, and authorities said the coaster was stopped at about a 30-degree angle. Firefighters, EMTs and a high-angle rescue team, an estimated 75 rescuers total, along with staff from Six Flags America were all at the scene to help bring the stranded riders to the ground.
Six Flags America said in a statement:
"Earlier this evening, Joker's Jinx did not complete its regular ride cycle causing it to stop at a safe location on the track. The Prince George's County Fire Department was assisted by the Anne Arundel County Fire Department in getting the riders safely off the ride, and this process was completed at 9:21 p.m. The safety of our guests is our highest priority and the ride will be closed for a thorough inspection before re-opening."
The firefighters positioned their fire trucks with ladder buckets to reach the roller coaster riders and then used the apparatus to bring them to the ground safely.
Watch video of the rescue below (App users -- click link to watch: http://bit.ly/2pcnqah)
Julia and Desieareus Valverde, two siblings from Silver Spring, Maryland, were one of the first riders safely rescued by the firefighters. They initially thought the roller coaster coming to a stop was part of the ride, but panic began to set when they realized they were actually stuck.
Julia said the firefighters helped them stay calm and they explained the whole process on how the riders were going to get down.
"They went up with at least three firefighters and started chaining down the cars because there was going to be a lot of fluctuating weight," said Julia. "They put a belt around my waist and some rope so if anything happened - there was still a gap between the cherry picker and the car - if I fell, they could get me back up."
It was agonizing wait for Julia's parents who were rushed away from the ride, but kept informed as the high angle rescue continued.
"It seemed like forever, but it was probably 45 minutes before the first fire truck came in," said Julia's father. "I think it was almost at the two-hour mark that they called us over to come pick up our kids. They were the first ones off."
When they finally were back on the ground, Desieareus said he was "relieved. Very relieved."
The Joker's Jinx has been stuck before, on August 10, 2014. It took about five hours for those riders to be rescued. In a live interview on FOX 5 DC, Prince George's County Fire Department spokesperson Mark Brady said the coaster is stuck in about the same position as it was back in 2014, and it could take the same amount of time to get the riders down safely. At that time, the park said it was a technical issue with the coaster's launch that caused it to get stuck.
According to Six Flags' website, the Joker's Jinx is 1 minute and 15 seconds long and reaches speeds of up to 60 MPH in just over three seconds. It was introduced in 1999, and is full of twists and turns.
The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation oversees amusement ride inspections, and they say the Joker's Jinx was last inspected on March 3, 2017. It does not have any outstanding violations.