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Kennywood's King Kahuna malfunctions

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Monday, July 7, 2008

A ride at Kennywood amusement park was expected to remain closed today because a malfunction Saturday left riders hanging upside down short of the station.

Crews inspected the King Kahuna ride in the Volcano Valley area of the West Mifflin park Sunday but were unable to replicate or find the cause of the problem, Kennywood spokeswoman Mary Lou Rosemeyer said.

King Kahuna was erected at Kennywood in 2003. Brought in from a park in Bristol, Conn., the ride is a bed of 40 seats hung on two metal arms. According to the park, as the arms rotate more than 40 feet in the air, the gondola itself rotates freely, so riders are flung, spun and hung upside down before the ride returns to rest.

The malfunction occurred about 9:25 p.m. Saturday, Rosemeyer said. The ride stopped about five feet from the station with 20 riders in an upside-down position, 8 to 10 feet above ground, she said. A mechanism meant to bring the ride back to the station did not work, she said.

The park guests were upside down for about 10 minutes before park workers could get them down, she said.

"They were never in any danger at all," Rosemeyer said. "Obviously, it's uncomfortable to be upside down for that length of time."

Although Rosemeyer said no one was seriously hurt, Sonya Smith, 43, of Penn Hills said she had pain in her back and shoulders yesterday and was wearing a neck brace.

Smith, who was at the park on her company's picnic, said her boyfriend talked her into getting on the ride. She said he had bruises, and it felt as though they were upside down for more than 10 minutes.

"It seemed we were up there for a very long time. It was terrifying. I have never imagined something like that would happen," she said. "I'm not ever going to go on a ride again."

Rosemeyer said the King Kahuna ride is inspected daily and the ride does not have a history of problems.

"It will remain closed until we are certain that we have addressed whatever problem there might be," she said. "Safety is always the No. 1 priority in everything we do."

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