The first Cyclone ride at Coney Island to welcome a new season instead kicked off a rescue when the roller coaster got stuck.
People walked down staircases on the iconic 88-year-old Coney Island ride on a chilly morning after the wooden roller coaster stopped working just as it inched up to the peak of the ride’s first big drop, according to witnesses.
“That thing was the scariest thing I ever did,” said David Zubin, 24, of Bensonhurst, of walking to safety. “The bricks, walking down, looked like it was going to break when you stepped on it.”
Zubin was in the last car of a ride he says he takes every year.
“I’ve been riding this thing every year—never happened,” he said.
The malfunction occurred shortly before noon after an egg cream christening ceremony and an inaugural ride with elected officials including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. The roller coaster got stuck when it was the public’s turn.
“She may not run as fast as she used to, but she’s still dependable,” Adams said, through a spokesman.
A spokeswoman for Luna Park, the home of the Cyclone at Coney Island, blamed an “isolated mechanical issue.”
The ride was sidelined for the day and will reopen on Saturday, when Luna Park is regularly scheduled to open for business again, said spokeswoman Erica Hoffman. No calls were made to 911, according to park staff and the NYPD.
“Safety is the number one priority for our guests at Luna Park,” said spokeswoman Angie Morris. “This was an isolated mechanical issue and it is quickly being repaired. No one was injured. Those on the ride were safely evacuated and will be able to ride again for free.”
Luna Park reps did not say how many people were on the ride at the time. Riders were left hanging on the roller coaster for about 20 minutes before crews helped them down. People were offered a free ride, according to park reps.
While Cyclone riders caught a break with just a malfunction, problems with amusement park rides at Coney Island have sent people to the hospital in the past. The Hell Hole, a rotor ride, fell apart in 1995, injuring 13 people, two critically; The next summer, a wheel fell off of a ride, The Jumbo Jet, injuring two people, according to reports at the time.
The city Department of Buildings, which handles amusement park ride inspections, lists on its site nine complaints about injuries from riding the Cyclone between 2007 and 2010, though no violations were found in each report. The last DOB inspection for the ride occurred this year, a Luna Park spokeswoman said.
Despite the mechanical problem, the draw of the Cyclone is still too much for some fans to ignore.
Joseph Saullo, a 33-year-old in North Babylon on the roller coaster with a cousin who traveled down from Poughkeepsie, said it won’t keep them away from a Cyclone ride that has been part of a family tradition his grandmother had started. This is his third opening day at Coney Island.
“My family had been riders on the Cyclone since 1939,” said Saullo, who got on line for the coaster at 4 a.m. “Something like this will never keep me away.”
Erik Knapp, 49, from Bensonhurst, who was on the first car, dismissed the hiccup as “no big deal.” Knapp, who estimated that he has taken more than 2,000 rides, said he refused to give up a chance to grab one of the first runs of the Cyclone this season.
“I’m not leaving till I get my ride,” Knapp said. “I waited all winter for this.”