Riders tell of terrifying hours stuck on State Fair ride

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by REBECCA LOPEZ

WFAA

Posted on October 22, 2012 at 7:20 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 22 at 11:40 AM

DALLAS — Two men who were stuck on the Stratosphere ride at the State Fair of Texas Friday night shared their story with News 8.

Skotch Vail is scared of heights. On Friday, his friend Juan Carlos Fuentes talked him into challenging that fear and taking a spin on the tallest ride on the Midway.

"This is before we go up, and he was so scared," Fuentes said as he showed us photos of their ordeal.

Vail said everything seemed okay at first. "I noticed how smooth the ride was all the way up — and then it jerked," he said.

After that, the ride didn't move. They were stuck at the top along with 22 other patrons.

"I was terrified," Vail said. "I was stuck up there, and — of course — you think about dying."

"I was afraid that the thing would come down too quick and the cord would break," Fuentes added.

The men said everyone was trying to remain calm, but they started to panic as firefighters and paramedics arrived and spectators watched 200 feet below.

"There was a little girl behind us, and she's doing the full-on panic that we are all feeling inside," Vail said. "She is expressing it."

A State Fair employee climbed a ladder to the top of the ride and tried to comfort the helpless patrons as they tried to comfort themselves.

"He [Vail] was so scared," Fuentes said. "He'd tell me, 'Why don't you sing 'Country Road?' I said, 'OK: Country road... take me home...'"

The riders were getting chilly as the mercury headed toward the 50s, but were relieved once the ride finally started to gently be lowered to the ground, ending their two-and-a-half hour adventure.

"Pure relief!" Vail said. "Every inch was like heaven."

And what was the reward for all the trouble and drama?

"They gave us a bunch of tickets as a consolation prize," Vail said.

But while Vail and Fuentes agreed that this was a terrible experience, they do plan on returning to the Stratosphere to conquer their  new fear.

E-mail rlopez@wfaa.com

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