Several trapped on chair-o-plane


A fairground ride at Funderland at the RDS in Dublin was working again yesterday, following an incident on Thursday night.

The Star Flyer, a high-rise, outdoor chair-o-plane on its first visit to Ireland, shut down at around 9pm on Thursday, trapping several people 52m (171ft) off the ground. Two children were taken to hospital after the incident, suffering from extreme cold, but have since been discharged. No one was injured.

Although two units of Dublin Fire Brigade were called to the scene by a passenger on the ride, their help was not required. The chairs were manually lowered by the machine's operators.

A spokesman for William Bird Sales Ltd, the company that brings Funderland to the RDS, said that the Star Flyer stopped after a sudden gust of wind caught the chairs and caused them to speed up.

"If the wind makes it fly too fast, the computer automatically shuts it down. It is a safety device and it worked perfectly," he said. "The system then had to be pumped and the chairs brought down manually. It took 13 minutes to get them down."

He said Funderland, which is making its 31st annual visit to the RDS, has a safety record as good as, if not better than, anything in Europe.

"Safety is our priority, and we always err on the side of caution. The Star Flyer was checked again this morning and is working perfectly," the spokesman said. He added that passengers were in no danger when the ride speeded up but may have become "uncomfortable".

Some 180,000 people are expected to visit almost 50 attractions at the funfair during its three-week visit to the capital.

Visitors yesterday afternoon clambered on to the Star Flyer oblivious of Thursday night's events. Yelps of fear could be heard as the ride slowly lifted off the ground to its full height. Then the chairs began to spin, coloured dots against a blue sky.

Paddy Kennedy, with 16-year-old son David, admitted to feeling very vulnerable once he got up there. "It's pretty slow but it's not about the speed, it's the height that gets you," he said.

Peter Galvin had travelled from Roscrea in Co Tipperary to bring his three charges to Funderland. The Martinkovkia sisters - Zoia (15), Valya (13) and Leana (16) - from Belarus, staying with his family, remained unmoved. Aoife Garland and Jackie Hennessy from Ballinteer agreed the ride was cool, and said they felt like birds.