Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Breakdown sends Ferris wheel on wild ride


August 3, 2017

Ferris wheel riders took a wild ride Saturday afternoon after a hydraulic system malfunction freewheeled the popular fair attraction.

John and Sharon Svenson were enjoying their first ever ride on the wheel when it stopped.

“I could sense that it was a hydraulic problem when the whole wheel stuttered and jerked prior to cutting loose in a free spin,” John Svenson said.

Most of the passengers were sitting in the Svensons’ section of the wheel behind them, causing it to spin backwards.

“It was an exciting 60 seconds where we were weightless on the forward and backward high speed spin. My wife was knuckle white, and the audience was excited from our vantage point,” Svenson said. “There was quite a team that jumped in to slow everything down, by hand. The poor kid on the other side of the wheel was definitely shaking.”

Fair volunteer Riyan Stossel was in the food court when he heard yelling coming from the direction of the wheel. He was among the handful of people who ran to stop the free spinning wheel.

“I heard screams and I watched the Ferris wheel spinning wildly by itself,” Stossel said.

The rescuers halted the wheel by hand and slowly lowered it to let the riders off.

Southeast Alaska State Fair executive director Jessica Edwards closed the ride after everyone made it off the machine. A hydraulic slippage issue caused the wheel to break down, Edwards said. She decided to open the ride up again on Sunday.

“There is a relationship between work and fatigue with that machine,” Edwards said. “Between the testing that was done to determine if it was ready to go and the fact that Sunday was a light and short day those things went together to lead the group to believe it was in good working order for Sunday. Maintenance staff was there monitoring it constantly and it was fine.”

Edwards said she’ll determine this winter exactly what the problem is and if they’ll be able to find new parts for the Ferris wheel.

“We may have a complex sleuthing project and we may have a simple replacement project,” Edwards said.


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