Thanksgiving Day Turns Terrifying For 24 Guests at Universal Studios as Emergency Rescue Takes Far Too Long

hollywood rip ride rockit coaster universal studios stuck
Credit: Universal/Canva

Numerous guests visiting Universal Orlando Studios Resort on Thursday are likely feeling more thankful than ever following the massive malfunction of a coaster that left them suspended in a vertical position for close to an hour while they waited to be rescued.

cabana bay universal studios globe and attractions at orlando resort

Credit: Discover Universal

A Terrifying Thanksgiving Holiday

On Thanksgiving evening, guests aboard the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster at Universal Orlando Resort suddenly found themselves in harm’s way when the ride malfunctioned, leaving them lying on their backs, panicked, as they waited for help to arrive.

No one knew that it would be nearly an hour before the Orlando Fire Department could execute a rescue at the attraction.

rip ride rocket coaster

Credit: Universal Studios Orlando Resort

Eyewitness Accounts Tell the Scary True Story

Photos of the coaster during the incident were shared online on Thursday evening by those in the park who witnessed the spectacle following the coaster’s malfunction. The images depict the coaster train stuck at the top of the vertical lift. One frequent visitor to Universal Studios Resort in Orlando says he noticed the riders stuck in the attraction and saw others taking photos of the coaster, and he shared something he noticed that seemed concerning.

“We were walking out of the park as it was closing time and [saw] a group of people taking pictures of the Rip Ride Rockit,” explains guest Dennis Malesky. “That seemed kind of odd until we looked up and [saw] the group stuck on the ride. Shortly after, the fire department arrived, but nothing seemed to be happening.

hollywood rip ride rockit stuck

Images courtesy of guest Dennis Malesky

Rip Ride Rockit: Not For the Faint of Heart

Per Universal Orlando, the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit offers guests a twist on regular coaster attractions.

“As you strap in, you’ll pick the song you want to hear above your own shrieks. Adrenaline pumping and music thumping, you’ll climb toward the sky at a 90-degree angle and tackle the first ferocious drop. Topping out at 65 mph, this rip-roaring ride is a blast from beginning to end.”

Complete Guide to Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios Florida - Discover Universal

Credit: Discover Universal

The ride, which opened to Universal guests in August 2009, features nearly 4,000 feet of steel track and stands 17 stories, or 167 feet, above Universal Studios, making it one of the tallest roller coasters in Central Florida. The experience features six maneuvers, three of which had never been built before the construction of the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster.

When it was built, it was the first coaster to feature a non-inverting loop, breaking coaster records around the world. The Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit ride is also the largest X-type coaster ever built by German ride manufacturer Maurer Söhne.

Guests Stranded on Their Backs for Nearly 60 Minutes

On Thanksgiving evening, guests who had boarded the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster were in the middle of the experience when the ride malfunctioned. The malfunction took place as the ride was in an ascent, according to FOX 35 Orlando.

How to Access Universal's Rip Ride RockIt Roller Coaster Secret Playlist

Actors Kevin Hart and Jimmy Fallon ride the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit on “The Tonight Show”/Credit: NBCUniversal

On Thursday evening, the suspended coaster had 24 guests onboard, and it could have been an even worse situation, as the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster features seven trains with two cars per train and requires riders to sit two across in three separate rows for a total of 12 riders per train, meaning that as many as 84 guests can experience the ride at one time, assuming all seven trains are in operation.

On an average day at Universal Orlando Resort, the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit attraction moves more than 1,800 riders through the experience per hour.

Local Authorities Execute a Rescue at the Coaster

The Orlando Fire Department responded to an emergency call initiated by the Orlando Police Department, which also arrived on the scene as the fire department called for a “technical rescue” of passengers stuck on the coaster tracks.

The ride’s malfunction took place at approximately 8:30 p.m. local time, causing the coaster to stop mid-ride. The incident rendered passengers suspended on the track on their backs. But as a rescue was being orchestrated, and the park was approaching closing time, Universal workers insisted that guests leave the park unless someone in their traveling party was a passenger on the malfunctioned coaster.

hollywood rip ride rockit

Credit: X/@bioreconstruct

“Universal employees made everyone who didn’t know anyone on the ride leave, as it was much after closing,” explains Dennis Malesky, who witnessed the incident. “On our way out, we [saw] the car finally move. They must have been up there an hour.”

Malesky says he has no plans to experience the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit.

“This is the only ride in the park I have not done yet, and needless to say, it will probably stay that way,” he said.

Malesky shared a video of the situation, and in it, a female voice can be heard talking about the scenario at hand: “They’re stuck way up there, at the tip. They’re literally on their backs right now,” she said.

Not the First Rodeo for This Malfunctioning Ride

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!