Sunday, December 10, 2023

Years before InvadR, Fabio struck by goose at Busch Gardens coaster launch

On Friday, Busch Gardens will launch its newest coaster, a Viking-themed, 50 mph ride known as “the InvadR.”

Amid fanfare over the unveiling of the theme park’s first wooden coaster, long-time locals will remember there was one such launch that did not go as planned.

On March 30, 1999, Fabio Lanzoni, the famed model and romance novel staple, was invited to sit in the front row for the inaugural ride on Apollo’s Chariot, the park’s first “hypercoaster” — a roller coaster higher than 200 feet.

“The whole park was crazy that day,” remembers Nancy Carswell of Norge, who was working as a portrait artist in the New France section of Busch Gardens at the time. “There were all these young girls at the park. We were all excited to see his blonde flowing hair. That’s not really what we ended up seeing.”

Somewhere between the coaster’s platform and its peak, a collision occurred that would make national news. A Canadian goose flew into the coaster’s path and crashed into the face of the park’s celebrity guest.

“For those of us who came of age in the late 1990s, it was our “Shot Heard ‘Round The World, our Day The Music Died,” wrote entertainment critic Dustin Krcatovich. “Fabio killed a goose in mid-air with his face.”

When asked for comment about the event, park spokesman Ron Vample said “there is no statement to give.” Representatives for Lanzoni did not respond to requests for comment by publication.

The new wooden coaster will open to the public Friday. It boasts 2,118 feet of track, a 74-foot drop, nine airtime hills and a tunnel — and no record of goose crashes.

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