Planned Worlds of Fun attraction has checkered past

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A new thrill ride headed to Worlds of Fun next spring promises to "take guests to breathtaking new heights," but when that same ride was operating in California and parks in other states it ran into trouble for occasionally leaving guests stranded at nearly 300 feet for hours at a time.

The WindSeeker, built by Netherlands-based Mondial Rides, consists of 32, two-person swings hoisted 300 feet in the air, which rotate around a center pole and can provide wide vistas and a feeling of flight.

But in several parks around the country in 2012, 41 Action News sister station WEWS uncovered, the ride was having mechanical problems that left riders stranded high above the ground for hours on end.

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One mechanical failure brought nationwide attention, when the WindSeeker at Knott's Berry Farm outside Los Angeles malfunctioned on Sept. 19, 2012, leaving 20 riders suspended hundreds of feet in the air for three and a half hours. Helicopters buzzed the ride, which had suffered a similar problem two weeks prior, and local news cameras swarmed riders when they were eventually returned to earth.

That incident led Cedar Fair Entertainment, which operates WindSeekers in several states, to close the rides and conduct an investigation. When concluded, Cedar Fair reopened five of its WindSeekers, but left the Knott's Berry Farm ride closed for the next 11 months, according to officials from the company.

On Friday, spokespeople from Knott's Berry Farm and Worlds of Fun confirmed that the Knott's Berry Farm WindSeeker would be moved in the off-season to Kansas City, where it will begin service at Worlds of Fun, renamed the SteelHawk.

"SteelHawk takes riders higher than any other ride currently at Worlds of Fun," wrote Frank Wilburn, vice president and general manager of Worlds of Fun, in a press release touting the coming attraction. "SteelHawk will be a spectacular showpiece that will be seen for miles."

The release made no mention of the SteelHawk's past life as the California WindSeeker.

"It is not uncommon for us to take popular rides and move them across our portfolio," Worlds of Fun spokesperson Holly Gurley told 41 Action News. "It is a safe ride."

Mondial Rides did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the ride's safety record.

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