A recording of the sole emergency call to Tampa Fire Rescue released Thursday indicates the urgency when a roller coaster broke down at Busch Gardens as a line of strong thunderstorms moved in.
The caller identifies himself as the park's safety director.
"The address of my emergency is Busch Gardens Tampa," the caller says. "We have a coaster stopped in a position that it was not designed to stop in and so with weather moving in we thought it prudent for you guys to help us evacuate guests off the ride."
Fifteen people were stuck on the ride after it stopped at about a 30 degree angle.
Busch Gardens is now taking some heat for how it responded; the ride broke down at about 2:30, but the fire department wasn't notified for an hour and a half even though the bad weather was approaching.
By the time Tampa Fire Rescue was called and arrived, they had to deal with lightning and strong winds as they safely rescued everyone on the ride.
"They were at an angle, probably 30 degrees, so just unbuckling them raised some anxiety for both the passengers and for our people," Chief Emilio Salabarria said immediately following the rescue. "We were able to put some nice harnesses on them before we moved them and got them into the buckets, and them lower them down to the ground."
Travis Claytor, a spokesperson for Busch Gardens, said workers followed protocol and first tried to fix the problem themselves. He said engineers with the park and the company that built the Cheetah Hunt ride are trying to determine what went wrong.
"The safety of our guests and team members as well as the welfare of our animals is our number one priority," Claytor said in a statement to FOX 13. "With regard to any situation at the park, we review and discuss any situation to find ways to make it better and serve our guests."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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