You’re 100 m (330 ft) up in the air, moving at 130 km/h (81 mph). Your heart is pounding as you scream your lungs out. Suddenly, a sharp hit to your chest. The coaster has stopped completely.
Now you’re hanging upside down, but how long can you hold on like this?
Modern rides are not controlled by a single guy pulling a lever anymore. Now they work with a combination of sensors, math calculations and computer programming. And just like any computer, it can malfunction and reboot. When the system detects a potential hazard, it can slow down the cars, or sometimes, stop them completely. Unfortunately, this can happen at any time, even on the most dangerous part of the ride. Why is lightning so dangerous? What happens to your body when you hang upside down? And why shouldn’t you scream?

Step 1. Do your research

See if the amusement park has had any issues with its roller coasters in the past. Read reviews online and find out in anyone has gotten stuck on the rides you want to try out. Don’t be the first person in line to ride a particular coaster that day. Make sure it’s had time to be tested and warmed up.

Step 2. Beware of lightning

Some parks have systems to detect lightning at various distances. When lightning hits close to a park, the system shuts down some of the rides automatically since coasters can act as lightning rods. In May 2022, a group of people got stuck on the Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland. They had just started moving when a major storm caused a power outage at the park, stopping the cars automatically. Cell phone footage shows the riders screaming as heavy rain propelled by strong winds pelted them. They were rescued after 30 minutes by the park staff. No one was injured.

Step 3. Listen carefully

If you get stuck on a ride, try to remain calm by regulating your breathing. Don’t scream and ask others to remain silent, as there will likely be announcements from ride operators. The staff may give you instructions on how to leave the coaster wagon and reach stairs on the side of the ride. If they are not certain that it is safe, they may need to call firefighters. The rescue team might give you harnesses to avoid risks like tripping or slipping.

Step 4. Don’t burn up

If your coaster is stuck on a particularly hot day, heatstroke can be avoided by drinking water and applying sunscreen before getting in line as a precautionary measure. You might get a seatbelt burn since any metal parts on the belt will heat up very quickly in direct sunlight. Ensure you have clothes between your skin and the harnesses and buckles.

Step 5. Hang in there

If you get stuck hanging upside down, your lungs will feel the pressure of other organs starting to shift downward. This will reduce the amount of oxygen you can get when you inhale. Excess blood will be forced to your brain, increasing the risk of ruptured blood vessels and potentially fatal hemorrhaging. Try to bend upward every few minutes so that you can stabilize your body’s blood circulation. In 1997, riders on a coaster in Belgium were stranded upside down in the middle of a loop for about 90 minutes. Firefighters were able to rescue everyone with only minor injuries reported. If your ride stops moving, whatever you do, don’t touch your seatbelt or move too much. Help should be on its way. The nightmare is over. You’re back on the ground and the park doctor says you’re good to go. You probably think you have a great story to tell, right?

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