“AtmosFEAR” Malfunctions at Portland’s Oldest Amusement Park

By Beatrice Liebrecht

One of Oregon’s oldest standing amusement parks, located in the SE neighborhood of Sellwood, had over two dozen riders suspended in the air Friday, June 14. Known for its rides, carnival games, indoor roller skating rink and classic foods, Oaks Park has been a destination for families and students across the city for many years.
The “AtmosFEAR,” labeled by Oaks Park as an “extreme” pendulum ride, offers guests the choice between two ride experiences: a 180-degree pendulum swing for those seeking a milder thrill and a whole 360-degree upside-down adventure for adrenaline enthusiasts.
The 28 unsuspecting thrill seekers who had lined up for the 360-degree experience were strapped into the ride and sent up as usual. The ride then stopped at what park officials called the “apex position,” or the highest point of the 360-degree experience. Riders’ legs faced the sky, and as the minutes ticked by, the malfunction resulted in the park shutting down and all bystanders being escorted out of the park’s grounds.
On one of the last days of classes for many Portland Public students, many onlookers said those trapped on the ride appeared to be students celebrating the start of summer break. In the age of digital media, when those on the ground noticed the malfunctioning ride, many turned to filming. Most videos were eventually posted on media sites like TikTok, garnering national attention to the incident.
Those watching the riders noticed shoes slipping off and phones falling from riders. However, riders remained buckled in until they were safely brought to the unloading position.
Some onlookers felt the Park did not handle the situation with the best communication, as there was only a megaphone simply repeating “Help is on the way” to the riders stuck, with no other reassurance. Both riders who experienced the malfunction on the “AtmosFEAR” and onlookers shared their pure terror online. Across various social media sites, many shared their experience. Some commented, speaking of plans their families have to sue the park. Others stating that some riders were on an eighth-grade graduation field trip, celebrating the beginning of the summer season.
Although authorities reported no serious injuries, the statement released by Oaks Park on X (formerly Twitter) said, “One rider with pre-existing medical conditions was transported to the hospital for further evaluation out of an abundance of caution. All other riders were released by medics to go home with their families.”
The statement issued by Oaks Park also said that the malfunction occurred at approximately 2:55 pm. Shortly after, park staff contacted 911 and began emergency procedures. Rescuers with the Portland Fire Bureau arrived at 3:20 pm.
Minutes later, park maintenance workers returned the “AtmosFEAR” to the ground. Unfortunately, the ride had to complete swinging to return riders from the upside-down position to the safe and entirely stopped position, where they could be helped off.
The statement also mentioned that the ride has operated since 2021 without incident until now, and the root of the mechanical issue is unknown. The ride will remain closed until further notice.
“We wish to express our deepest appreciation to the first responders and our staff for taking prompt action, leading to a positive outcome today, and to the rest of the park guests who swiftly followed directions to vacate the Park to make way for the emergency responders to attend to the situation. Most of all, we are thankful that the riders are safe and with their families,” the statement said. They also mentioned that in 2023 local emergency response teams held a training at the “AtmosFEAR” ride as standard procedure, and the response plan was carried out effectively when the malfunction occurred.
Finally, the park offered refunds and opportunities to reschedule for onlookers and guests whose visits were cut short due to the malfunction. They urged attendees to keep their ride bracelets from June 14 to expedite the refunding and rescheduling processes, and to contact Oaks Park’s Administration office Monday through Friday at 503.233.5777 or by email, info@oakspark.com.

Riders on “AtmosFEAR” were helped off by PF&R after it stalled. Photo by PF&R.

“AtmosFEAR” Malfunctions at Portland’s Oldest Amusement Park

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