A Virginia Beach family visited a Williamsburg theme park over the weekend expecting to enjoy some roller coasters. Instead, Timolyn Tillman said, she, her husband and daughter left with concussions.
A Busch Gardens ride operator accidentally hit the emergency brake on Apollo’s Chariot, park spokesperson Ron Vample said.
About midway into the ride’s 4,882-foot track, Tillman said the ride came to what she described as a screeching halt.
“My whole body jolted,” she said. “I jerked forward and immediately backward, like a whiplash.”
For about 10 minutes, riders sat in pitch-black, she said.
A 9-year-old girl in the row behind Tillman began screaming for her mother, who was waiting on the ground below them, she said.
“She was screaming that we were going to die. I kept trying to turn around because she was in a panic. I was afraid she was going to wiggle out of her seat,” Tillman said.
Unlike several coasters at the park, Apollo’s Chariot locks riders in using a restraint on their lower half.
Tillman said after the coaster returned to the platform, she asked the ride operator about what happened.
“She told me she accidentally hit the emergency brake and the maintenance technician who was there said the same thing,” Tillman said.
“All guests were brought back into the ride station and safely exited the ride. The Busch Gardens team spoke with all guests, who were offered water and health services,” the theme park said in a statement given to The Pilot on Wednesday. “The safety of our guests and ambassadors remains our top priority.”
Tillman, an attorney at Liberty Law Group, said she began to experience some dizziness, lethargy and nausea Monday morning. That afternoon, her husband, Lance, and daughter, Alexandria Kimble, were diagnosed with concussions at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital. Busch Gardens spokesman Ron Vample declined to answer questions about the incident beyond the statement .
“We buy season passes every year,” Tillman said, “but I can say it will be a long time before I get on a roller coaster again.”