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Man stuck on broken El Nino ride: ‘I couldn’t feel half my body, it was really numb’

SEATTLE -- A ride at the Washington State Fair, the El Nino, suddenly stopped with 19 people on it, causing panic to the riders were were stranded.

Firefighters rescued all 19 people off the ride. No one was injured.

A day at the fair is all about the rides, but Monday night this was the scene of the popular El Nino ride.

“Everybody was panicking. There were little kids on the ride,” said Bilai Quabani, one of the riders. “Me and my friend, we were stuck on the side, and because of that, for the last 20-25 minutes I couldn’t feel half my body because it was really numb and we were stuck in a really weird angle shape."

He said riders were stuck in uncomfortable positions for about 20 minutes before the fire department arrived. Once they did, firefighters were able to get everyone off the ride, safely, in about 10 minutes.

“Before the gates ever open they do at least three rotations of every ride on this property,” said Stacy Van Horne, with the Washington State Fair.

She says the ride operator, Funtastic, checks rides daily and keeps mechanics on site.

“Basically how the ride works, the arm lifts it up and rotates it like a clock and it basically just stopped,” Van Horne said about the El Nino ride that stopped working just before 6 p.m.

By law, all Washington amusement rides must be inspected at least once a year for mechanical and electrical issues. In addition, every time a ride is set up, an electrical inspection is required.

The ride owner, Ronald Burback, president of Funtastic Rides Inc., said in a statement, “The ride has been taken out of service for a full electrical inspection that includes the programmable logic controller proximity sensors and drives of the ride, at this time it appears that an electrical interruption could be one of the contributing factors.”

After his experience on the ride Monday night, Quabani said he’s not eager to get on a ride any time soon.

"In the future, I have to think about it, but for now, I don’t know,” he said.

The El Nino has been taken out of service at the Washington State Fair.

Van Horne says it was on site during the spring fair with no issues.

The state Department of Labor and Industry says the next step is to have Funtastic hire a third-party inspector to investigate what went wrong, fix the issue, then apply for a new permit from L&I.

According to L&I, there have been five people injured in three incidents so far this year. The latest, on August 26: “Tilt-a-Whirl,” at the Kitsap County Fair. Three children were injured when car they were riding in detached from the machine.

Aug. 4: A woman at Wild Waves on the “Safari Jeep” ride. She was buckling children in and the ride started and ran over her foot. She received first aid and declined emergency room care.

April 11: Jumping Joey’s Inflatables LLC, the “Combo Bounce Castle.” A 10-year-old girl was injured going down a slide when she bounced over a 5-foot wall. She suffered a hairline fracture in her left arm.

Injury accidents are not very common but a handful happen each year. A breakdown of injury accidents over the last five years from L&I:

 

Year Injuries (numbers of people injured)
2013 0
2014 7 people

2 incidents

2015 4 people

4 incidents

2016 5 people

4 incidents

2017 3 people

3 incidents

2018 5 people
3 incidents