SUMMIT TOWNSHIP — It was over in an instant, but seeing Conneaut Lake Park’s Blue Streak roller coaster hit by lightning is something three people say they won’t forget.

“There was a bright flash, a bang and then sparks and smoke,” said Ron Proper, a ride operator for the Blue Streak.

“I screamed like a little girl,” said Vanessa Rolfe.

“It sent chills up me,” added Mike Colburn.

The only damage to the coaster in the 4 p.m. Thursday lightning strike was to the 75-horsepower electric motor that powers the ride, according to George Deshner, the amusement park’s director of operations. The motor dates from 1930 and is the ride’s original motor.

Maintenance crews were installing a spare motor Thursday night and the Blue Streak may be operational by the time the park opens today at noon, Deshner said.

However, that motor, acquired from a Wisconsin amusement park a few years ago, hasn’t been run.

The roller coaster had been shut down because of thunderstorms and lightning in the area and no one was on it when was struck around 4 p.m., said Proper.

Colburn and Rolfe said they were struck by sparks from the motorhouse — Colburn near his left shoulder and Rolfe on the top of her right foot.

The lightning bolt struck the metal chain that tows the ride’s cars up the first hill, Proper said. The energy was conducted down the chain and into the ride’s motorhouse burning out its 75-horsepower motor.

“There was a lot of sparks and smoke,” said Proper, who was on the ride’s loading deck about 200 feet away from the motor house.

Colburn and Rolfe were on the ride’s exit ramp talking to Proper when the bolt struck.

“I thought it did catch on fire,” Rolfe said.

Firefighters from Summit Township and Conneaut Lake Park volunteer fire departments were called to the scene, but there was no fire, said Chief Gig King of Summit Township.

H. LeRoy Stearns, the court-appointed custodian of Conneaut Lake Park, said the park keeps abreast of weather conditions in the area and shuts down rides when lightning is reported within 20 miles.

While no other damage was reported, Deshner said all of the rides — some 13 in Kiddieland and 14 adult ones — will be examined before the park reopens.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at

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