Wild Waves scare: 'I kind of thought I was going to die'

Wild Waves scare: 'I kind of thought I was going to die' »Play Video
Cooper Roper, 11, talks about his harrowing experience when a ride at Wild Waves amusement park malfunctioned, sending parts and debris flying through the air.
FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - A piece of debris as big as a garbage can crashed through the air when a ride at Wild Waves theme park malfunctioned, scaring a group of elementary school students on a field trip, parents and kids said.

"I was sick to my stomach. It really scared me," said Holly Roper, one of those parents. She learned about their frightening ordeal after her son sent a text message from the trip.

Eleven-year-old Cooper, Holly's son, was spared the large piece of debris, but was hit by a light bulb when the Falling Star ride at the Wild Waves theme park broke on Thursday morning.

"Definitely scary. I kind of thought I was going to die," said Cooper. "You kind of thought (the ride) was going to do another 360, but then it just stopped, and went back and stopped, and then pieces flew everywhere."

"It just kept on cracking," he added.

Cooper was with his fellow school safety patrols from Maple Hills Elementary School in Renton on a year-end field trip to the amusement park Thursday. About eight students got onto the ride, along with two chaperones, in addition to about a dozen other people, said witnesses.

 The Falling Star ride at Wild Waves amusement park is now shut down while it undergoes repairs.

The ride made a full rotation and several swings, added witnesses, before it made a loud noise, began to slow, and pieces of the ride fell off.

The gear box, which helps the ride rotate, malfunctioned, said Wild Waves General Manager Todd Suchan.

"In the world of rides and mechanics, there's always something, whether it's big or small, that potentially can happen," Suchan said. "Safety for sure is our No. 1 priority. It is today and it always has been. Our rides go through daily inspections."

"When it first broke, it sounded like twisting metal, and then it did it again," said Wendy Kalmbach, a parent and chaperone on the trip. "A big engine-sized thing crashed to the ground, and I thought to myself, 'That's not right.'"

Kalmbach shielded the children she was standing with on the ground, and had them turn away, for fear of witnessing something horrific.

"The pieces that were falling off were so large. I was afraid every time that it would swing to the bottom where the stuff was falling down that somebody was going to get crushed. I didn't want to see it and I didn't want the kids to see it," she said.

A representative from the ride manufacturer - a company named Chance, according to Suchan - is heading out to the Federal Way amusement park next week to figure out what caused the failure and how to fix it.

For now, Cooper is sticking to water rides, said his mother, Holly.

"I guess my biggest fear is that that experience may have actually ruined his joy of actually going to theme parks, and that's not very fair for an 11-year-old boy," she said.