DALTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- James Burtchett and his son Ryan spent nearly five hours trapped at the bottom of an amusement park ride after the passenger wheel sheared off and crashed to the ground, injuring about two dozen people.
Burtchett, 41, and Ryan, 13, were the last of 25 to 30 riders rescued from the Chaos, a variation on the Tilt-A-Whirl, on Monday night at Michigan's Adventure Amusement Park.
Burtchett's wife, Jennifer, said James had blood on the back of his head and Ryan was bleeding from one ear. They were airlifted to a Grand Rapids hospital, where they were being treated for minor injuries, a hospital official said. Both were in stable condition early Tuesday.
The Chaos ride begins spinning horizontally and gains speed, turning vertically until it resembles a speeding Ferris wheel. Officials said the wheel came off its spindle at about 6:30 p.m. while nearly vertical, leaving riders in the top cars stuck in mid-air.
The park's officials said it wasn't clear why the ride came apart. Earlier in the day, two park-goers said the ride had malfunctioned and customers were taken off.
Mike McFarland, who was standing next to the ride operator when the accident happened, said he was "shocked and terrified" because his 13-year-old daughter was on the ride.
"They were lucky nobody got hit when it hit the ground because pieces were flying everywhere like missiles. They got real lucky," said McFarland.
Rescuers had to wait three hours to begin removing passengers because authorities feared the wheel was unstable and would fall sideways, said Chief Kevin Blanchard of the White Lake Fire Authority.
Cranes and cherry-pickers were used to remove people from cars that were high in the air. All but two of the trapped passengers were taken to area hospitals.
Diana Reinelt said she was walking near the ride when the crash happened and she heard riders screaming.
"There was a big bang noise and the ride just stopped," Reinelt said.
Her husband Martin and friend Doug Anderson said they were on the ride earlier in the day, and it stopped in mid-air. They said the ride was lowered and everyone got off.
Camille Jourden-Mark, vice president of park operations, said she wasn't aware of the earlier malfunction. She said all park rides are inspected daily, and inspectors found no problems with the ride on Monday.
Nineteen patients, none with life-threatening injuries, were brought to Muskegon's Hackley Hospital. Sixteen of them were treated and released before midnight, said Stuart Jones, a hospital spokesman.
Three teen-age patients were taken to Mercy General hospital, said spokeswoman Roberta King. One was in fair condition and the conditions of the others were not immediately known.
The park located is about 40 miles north of Grand Rapids.
On the Net:
Michigan's Adventure Amusement Park: http://www.miadventure.com
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