By Jen Balduf
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MASON, Ohio — Roller coaster rides are setting off a new Apple crash detection feature launched in September that automatically alerts emergency services.
The Warren County Communications Center has received six calls generated by iPhones while their users were riding a Kings Island coaster, said Melissa Bour, Warren County Emergency Management Agency director.
Additional calls were made over the weekend, but Bour said should could not provide the exact number of calls until Tuesday.
The new feature works on the new iPhone 14 and Apple Watches and is intended to detect severe car crashes.
Sara White, a 39-year-old dentist, told the Wall Street Journal that her iPhone 14 Pro automatically called 911 when she went on Mystic Timbers at Kings Island. The wooden roller coaster is 109 feet tall with top speeds of 53 mph.
“The owner of this iPhone was in a severe car crash and is not responding to their phone,” an automated voice says in the call to 911, before also providing longitude and latitude coordinates. Screams from others on the ride can be heard in the background of the call, the Journal reported.
Accidental calls made by visitors to Kings Island is nothing new, Bour said.
During King Island’s opening weekend this year, there were 15 hang-up calls and 128 calls that were silent.
“We get thousands of calls” each season, she said, mostly by people who place their cellphones in their pockets while on rides.
The calls must be taken seriously. First responders are dispatched to the park when it happens, and dispatchers try to reach the caller to determine whether there is an emergency.
Warren County in April rolled out new software countywide that sends a text message for 911 hang up calls. The text provides a phone number to call for those who accidentally dialed 911 and do not need emergency assistance.
“That’s really helped us out,” Bour said.
To prevent phones from accidentally dialing 911 while on rides, users need to place them in airplane mode.
Some amusement parks, such as Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, are posting reminders, the Journal reported.
Chad Showalter, communications director for Kings Island, said cellphone usage is prohibited while on rides. Information about the park’s rider guidelines also is communicated through in-park signage at each ride, he said.
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