A Roller Coaster Nightmare Come True

I may be scared of long plane flights, trying new foods, and skinny jeans, but roller coasters have never made me wince. After unofficially being adopted into my best friend’s family in 6th grade and spending almost every weekend at a theme park in Northern Virginia, I suddenly lived for the thrill of being hurled through the air in a shaky, loud, metal cart. She was the one to convince me to try my first “upside down roller coaster” and I was hooked.

Two years later, I was stoked to learn that my 8th grade class was going to take a day trip to this same theme park, the one Alyssa and I could navigate blindfolded. A lot of the girls in our class were scared of roller coasters and had plans to spend the day eating funnel cakes and playing the impossible-to-win carnival games. Unlike them, I was excited to spend 6 hours strapped into a ride (hopefully next to the class heart throb) where I would happily scream my lungs out and have my brain rattled by as many roller coasters as possible.

Very early in the day, my adrenaline junkie plans were crushed after a traumatic ride on “The Anaconda.” I slid into the sticky leather seat next to my friend Kristin. We pulled down our safety harnesses, giggled in excitement, and waited to for liftoff.

Click, click, click, click- the train slowly made it’s way up the 145 foot ramp. I looked at Kristin who was visibly nervous and reassured her that this was the worst part, the anticipation and climbing the hill was the worst. I wish I had been right.

When we were nearing the top of the hill, I instinctively gripped my safety harness handlebars tighter and pulled it in closer to me, I wanted to feel nice and secure in the cart. With a nauseating click the safety harness released and fell at least a foot away from my chest. The only thing that was keeping the harness from lifting completely was a little plastic buckle, the same type of thing that holds a fanny pack together.

It took me a minute to grasp what was happening. Kristin’s eyes bulged and she said “stop it!” as if I had intentionally released my safety harness just to freak her out. I pumped the harness over and over again, hoping the lock would “catch” and I would once again be fully strapped into the cart that was getting ready to drop 145 feet, reach 50 mph, and spiral 8 times. No such luck.

I watched the top of the hill approach and asked Kristin if I should get off, if I should jump out of my seat and walk the emergency stairs back down to the bottom? We both realized that there wasn’t enough time for me to squirm out of my seat safely before the drop, so we opted for plan B. Kristin reached out as far as she could to try and push down my harness, however her nice and tight harness prevented her from helping too much. I pulled back as hard as I could, but the spring loaded safety device was determined to stay as far away from my body as possible. I started sobbing, and so did she.

As we slowly inched over the peak of the hill, we both let out blood curdling screams. Our cries were different from the other excited squeals on the coaster, ours were full of real desperation and terror. The type of scream that happens when you think you (or your friend sitting next to you) are about to die. I had no idea how I was going to make it through the near 2-minute ride unfastened and halfway hanging out of my seat.

That ride was the longest 2 minutes of my life. Normally the excitement of roller coasters is in knowing that something dangerous could potentially happen, but more than likely won’t. That day? I was in real danger and could have very easily been hurt. My body flung around the cart and slipped way further out than I was comfortable with, but Kristin and I managed to keep me contained throughout the ride. Thankfully, the only things hurt that day were my vocal chords from screaming, my ears from Kristin’s screaming, and a little bit of my psyche. I may or may not have trust issues with “safety devices” to this day.

As the roller coaster screeched back into the loading dock I continued to sob, but now because of relief. With wobbly legs, a hoarse voice, and a mascara stained face, I found one of the coaster operators to tell him what had happened and to not let anybody sit in the seat I had just been in.

I was traumatized and knew that I would not be riding another coaster that day. I didn’t let it prevent me from riding coasters in the future, but I will never forget the feeling of literally holding on for dear life.

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16 thoughts on “A Roller Coaster Nightmare Come True

  1. Oh. My. God. My husband and I were sitting here showing our children rides at Kings Dominion for an upcoming trip and I started sharing my experience on the Anaconda…I was in my early teen years and my harness did the exact same thing!!!!! I remember screaming for my life but knew no one would hear me. I tried to grab onto my fathers harness who was sitting next to me. My husband had the exact same thing happen as me. Except ours both released around the giant corkscrew. I thought maybe it was just a design in the coaster to scare the life out of you so we started searching for posts and I found this. Unbelievable!

  2. Terrifying post, Courtney. I’d forgotten!! I use to love taking all four of you onto roller coaster rides — probably pushed the envelope a bit when we took Katy on the KD “Rebel Yell” at about age six (not sure how we slipped her by the staff?). Katy still remembers that šŸ˜¦ Anyway, so glad you were able to “hang-on” through the ride and are still with us today!!!! Love, you — dad

    • We took her on Rebel Yell when she was 6!? Poor baby. That ride is terrifying haha! Good thing she wasn’t on The Anaconda and in my position when the harness popped up, a six year old would have NOT stayed in the seat at all. Yikes, kinda scary to think about. Love you!

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  4. I thought such things happen only in the movies!! This is scary! But glad to know that you could overcome this incident and move on. The very thought gave me goosebumps…something straight from a Final Destination movie!

  5. I hate, hate, hate the pirate ship. When KD first opened, my mother told the story of the Rebel Yell stopping halfway up the hill and the workers having to walk up the hill and relock all the bars in cars on both tracks. Not as bad as your situation, but in 1970something it was bad enough. It hasn’t stopped me from riding, though I prefer Busch Gardens nowadays.

    • Yep, the pirate ship is the ONE ride I refused to do. Especially after seeing it get stuck upside down that one time, umm NO THANK YOU. Do you remember that happening?

      Ahhh the Rebel Yell. What a sketchy roller coaster haha! It always felt like it was on the verge of flying right off of the tracks. It’s kind of scary how long those coasters run for. I like Busch Gardens too šŸ™‚

  6. I completely forgot about that!!! I have always hated that ride! It’s pretty unbelievable that place is still up and running – remember when that guy fell off of the Shockwave (the stand up one) and died?! Too think my mom used to MAKE us go šŸ˜‰ So happy you’re alive šŸ™‚

    • Oh yeah I definitely remember the Shockwave incident!! We were supposed to go to KD that day! And remember when the big pirate ship got stuck upside down for several hours??? It makes me want to cry even thinking about that happening. Those poor people. Glad we survived all of our trips to KD šŸ™‚

  7. Have mercy! I’m so glad you were ok… I never did like roller coasters, and I have to tell you, as I read your tale of terror, I experienced enough fear and adrenaline from the written account to prevent me from ever riding another roller coaster. God bless you. šŸ™‚

    • haha sorry I sealed the deal for you as far as avoiding roller coasters go! It does seem kind of like an unnecessary danger to me though. Kind of like sky diving- I just don’t get it! šŸ™‚

  8. Whhhaaaat? Okay, you just described my WORST nightmare..and, trust me, that beats out many of my other traumatic nightmares like getting hit by a bus while getting an ice cream cone or a plane crashing into my house. Glad you walked away unharmed!! With my luck, I would have just applied moisturizer to my hands or something and been unable to hold on for dear life (somehow, I always seem to apply lotion to my hands before important events like opening jars or attempting to put in tiny earrings.) Thanks for giving me something else to be anxious about! šŸ˜‰

    • Haha the plane into the house thing, I can relate! It was definitely a bizarre experience to say the least. I feel very lucky to have made it through the ride from hell safely!!

  9. Holy sh*t dude that is so intense!!!! I am so happy that you didn’t lose your life that day! My heart is racing five minutes after finishing the last sentence!! Glad you’re alive! Love you!

    • Thanks!! Yeah it was definitely one of the worst things that I’ve ever experienced haha! When I think back on it, it seems so unreal. The funny thing too is the coaster operate (probably a stoned kid in his early 20’s) really didn’t seem phased by what I told him. He was just like “um, okay.” haha! YIKES! Not long after this a kid fell out of another coaster at the park and died. I think they have a problem…

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