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Terror at 85 feet

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Photo gallery

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Front-row feat: Erik Knapp — known as “Mr. Cyclone” for his tattoo of the 88-year-old ride — yells down to the ground to say everything is okay on the stalled coaster.
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Helping hand: A worker helps a young girl climb to safety.
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Can’t keep a good ride down: David Zubin of Bensonhurst and Adam Myers say they’re going back to the Cyclone April 4 to take the ride they missed out on. Luna Park, which operates the decades-old coaster, gave a free ticket to thrill-seekers who missed out becasue the coaster went kaput.

It’s enough to make your stomach drop.

When Luna Park’s Cyclone roller coaster stalled near the top of its first hill during the second ride of the season on March 29, trapping a dozen riders 85 feet above Coney Island, nobody at the amusement park bothered to contact the police or fire department. A longtime fan of the gut-churner who was trapped said the safety oversight was too much for her to stomach.

“I was very grateful for workers who helped us get down to the ground, but then I find out that they never even called 911, which really bothered me, because God forbid if somebody fell,” said Diana Elsener, who drove from Poughkeepsie to ride the iconic coaster on opening day.

No one called the fire department or the police when the coaster stalled, spokesmen from both agencies said. Elsener didn’t see any ambulances before climbing down from her 85-foot-high vantage point, she said.

Representatives from Luna Park did not return a call for comment.

About a dozen riders sat at the top of the towering thrill ride for about 20 minutes when coaster cars locked up just before cresting the ride’s first hill at noon on Sunday, witnesses said. At first, riders thought the pause was planned to add to the thrill, but soon the gravity of the situation sank in, one stranded thrill-seeker said.

“I thought ‘maybe they just needed to hit a button,’ but then I look down, and I see all of Luna Park has stopped, and the staff comes running, and I know we’re stuck,” said David Zubin of Bensonhurst, who has been riding the Cyclone every opening day for the past decade.

Luna Park staff climbed the coaster and escorted stranded riders down a series of wooden steps to terra firma with no injuries reported. The thrill was there, but the spills came the next day, Elsener said.

“I woke up this morning and collapsed,” she said. “Every muscle in my legs just cramped, so I’m actually having a lot of trouble walking. People keeps saying ‘steps,’ but they’re not steps — it’s a little strip of wood that you have to brace yourself on. I’m not gonna lie — it was terrifying.”

The iconic ride opened in 1927, and operator Astroland Amusement Park refurbished the ride in 1974. Luna Park took over management of the coaster in 2011 and began another round of refurbishment. Hurricane Sandy delayed the work but didn’t cause any lasting damage to the ride, operators said.

But Sunday’s technical glitch, and Luna Park’s failure to alert the authorities are not enough to dissuade Elsener from taking another go-around on the coaster, she said.

“Our family has been riding the cyclone since 1939,” said Elsner, who got to Luna Park at 7:30 am to get in line. “At this point, I would ride again because it’s a family tradition.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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