Arlington, TX (WFAA) - It was supposed to be an all-night celebration for high school seniors to remember at Six Flags Over Texas.
A nightmare unfolded. Eight people were stuck on "The Joker" roller coaster for more than three hours during a lightning storm, hours before the ride was supposed to officially open.
“We were holding hands, and we prayed a lot,” said Christian Chaney, a Durant High School senior who was on the ride with a friend.
Chaney is back home, safe now in Durant, Oklahoma. She says she is still shaken she was stuck 12 stories high on Six Flags’ newest ride.“My friend and I thought we were going to die, just because there was lightning, and we didn't think anyone knew we were up there,” said Chaney.
The ride came to a slow stop, Chaney said, roughly halfway through the track, around midnight. The last person was rescued around 3:30 a.m.
She said Six Flags did not communicate anything to those trapped for quite some time.
“All eight of us were screaming at the top of our lungs, trying to get their attention, trying to get them to say something and we didn't hear from Six Flags, from anyone. No one came over the intercom for at least 25 minutes, maybe even 30,” said Chaney.
Chaney said the rain started and winds picked up as soon as the ride took off. She thinks the theme park should never have allowed the group on the ride with storms fast approaching.
Arlington firefighters had to cut a hole in a chain-link fence to get a ladder truck near the ride for the rescue, Chaney said.
“We had a harness on our bodies, and we had to stand up in our seats on the ride and try to crawl over and maneuver over in our seats on these bars that were in between us, and I don't know how I did it, honestly,” said Chaney, of the rescue.
“We had to climb down a firefighter ladder all the way down the ride. The ladder was rocking up and down from the wind,” added Chaney.
Sharon Parker, Six Flags Over Texas Communications Manager, said sensors picked up strong head winds and automatically stopped the ride.
“The safety of our guests is our highest priority. We monitor weather conditions around the clock," said Parker in a written statement. “In this particular instance, a weather update was communicated just as the ride car was dispatched. Our ride crew was immediately notified but the severe head winds ahead of the storm were moving swiftly and caused the ride to stop at a safe location on the track.”
The Joker was supposed to officially open Saturday, but the opening has been postponed while engineers do a safety check. No word yet on when the ride will open.
Meanwhile, Chaney said she will never get on another roller coaster.
“I had a pair of shorts, and once I got off the ride my legs were red from where the rain had been hitting them so hard,” said Chaney. “I was bawling. I was just so happy to be on the ground. It really hit me then, as I was coming down the ladder, that I was really in a life-threatening situation.”