DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - In a never-before-seen photograph, two women from Kentucky who were visiting Florida are smiling, holding up their hands, about to take off on the Daytona Beach Sandblaster roller coaster. Moments later, their lives would be turned upside down.
"Everyone that was on that ride, their lives have been changed," said Amanda Bostic.
It was June 14, 2018. The car the group was in went off the rails. People were left dangling in the air for 45 minutes. Others were thrown out of their seats. Six people, including Bostic and Missy Collins, were seriously injured. The two women were accompanying adults with special needs on a trip to Florida.
"The first time around wasn’t as bad. It was fast, but by the second time, you knew something was wrong," Collins said. "I remember I could not breathe. Still, it troubles me because I could not breathe. I couldn’t catch my breath."
"I was ejected, so I was on the ground. Once I realized kind of what happened, I started yelling for help," Bostic explained. "We’re almost four years out from my accident, and I’m still having struggles daily."
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) hired an engineering firm to investigate. They found speed was the primary cause, but there were also issues with the seatbelts and rust on the tracks. Officials say they also found evidence of previous derailments.
"It was unreal because there should have been proper things put in place to prevent that ride from ever functioning again once that happened," Bostic said.
Overall, amusement rides are considered safe. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), there’s a one in 15.5 million chance of being seriously injured on a ride at a fixed site. When there are accidents, it rocks the industry. Just about four years after that Daytona derailment, Tyre Sampson fell to his death from the Orlando Free Fall. State officials said the early investigation has revealed the seats were adjusted for larger riders, making it unsafe.
So how do you know if a ride you’re about to get on is safe? There are a few things to look for.
First, FDACS said there should be a permit sticker on display that shows the ride has been inspected. It should look like the ones you see on gas pumps. State officials also said you should obey posted safety instructions and pay close attention to what you’re seeing and hearing before getting on a ride -- for example, are the employees paying attention to the riders? And keep your hands and feet inside the carrier, always holding on to the lap bars or restraints.
"I’m glad to be alive, and I’m thankful for everyone prayed for us," Collins said.
The women say they’ll never set foot on an amusement ride again. The Sandblaster never reopened and was eventually torn down. But the memories of what happened on that ride linger.
"You expect a fun time and then tragedy strikes," Bostic said.
Several of the victims hired attorneys after the accident and tell us they received settlements shortly after.