Visitors at Canada’s Wonderland were caught amid a powerful storm Saturday, leaving some trapped on roller coaster rides for up to 30 minutes while others were scrambling to find shelter at the amusement park in Vaughan, Ont.
In a video posted to TikTok, visitors can be seen stranded on the Behemoth, one of the Wonderland’s biggest roller coasters, as heavy wind and rain sweeps through the park.
“It came full force within about 10 minutes …. like out of nowhere,” Lynn Ritchie, who posted the video, told CBC News.
Ritchie was visiting the park on Saturday with her husband and friends, when she received a text to take shelter immediately while she was at the front of the line to ride the Behemoth.
As the bad weather rolled in, Ritchie said she anticipated the staff who were talking among each other and over the phone, were going to shut down the ride and ask everyone to leave. But that wasn’t the case.
“As we’re getting that alert, they were loading people onto the ride,” she said. “It was at that point I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t feel comfortable like this kind of get struck by lightning or something.'”
‘Oh my god, they’re just stuck on it’
The cart full of riders was quickly halted as soon as it made its way out of the covered area, she said, but riders could not get off at that point.
Ritchie then quickly made her way to the gift shop near the exit of the roller coaster, to take shelter as the rain started to heavily pour down.
“Oh my god, they’re just stuck on it,” Ritchie is heard saying in the video. “They’re just stuck there.
“That is like my worst nightmare scenario,” she told CBC News.
“You could see that they were screaming,” she said. ‘You could see it, but you couldn’t hear it because the wind and the rain was so strong.”
The clips combined in Ritchie’s video, which were shot within a few minutes of each other, show the park as the weather quickly worsened from dark clouds to heavy wind and rain.
Ritchie said she and others were sheltering in the gift shop as they watched the trees swinging back and forth and riders on the Behemoth sit there trapped.
Staff worked ‘as quickly and safely as possible’
In a statement to CBC News, Canada’s Wonderland said ride operations staff “began to close rides due to a sudden, severe thunderstorm approaching the park,” at approximately 12:40 p.m. on Saturday.
“A power outage occurred shortly after and several rides, including the Behemoth roller coaster, halted with guests onboard,” Grace Peacock said in a statement Wednesday.
Peacock said staff worked to evacuate guests “as quickly and safely as possible.”
Guests on the Behemoth were evacuated about 30 minutes later but no one was injured, she added.
According to Wonderland’s safety procedures, rides are not operated when lightning or inclement weather is closeby.
“The park has a lightning detection system that tells us when lightning is within eight kilometres, 13 kilometres and 15 kilometres of the park,” Peacock said. “Rides are staged to be shut down according to this information, based on their height and dynamic.”
Ritchie said as soon as the riders were evacuated and allowed to get off of the roller coaster, other visitors at the gift shop rushed to offer them clothes or shoes because many were dressed for the warm weather.
“I could not even imagine how they were feeling up there,” Ritchie said. “I couldn’t.”