For months, people have been coming to see the strangely beautiful sight of a roller coaster sitting in the ocean, its twisted metal silhouette rising out the sea like the skeleton of a giant ship run aground.
Just today, Britain’s Prince Harry popped by to pay his respects.
After tumbling off the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, and into the ocean during Superstorm Sandy, the JetStar became a symbol both of the storm’s strength and the slow pace of its recovery in some areas.
But after more than six months of waiting, demolition finally began Tuesday and will be completed surprisingly quick.
“The work is anticipated to take about 48 hours,” said Toby Wolf, a spokesperson for Casino Pier, which owns the ride. “They will work around the clock until the project is completed.”
A 150-ton crane began picking apart the rusty steel tracks just after noon. By 2 p.m. only a small pile of metal remained.
It’s part of the race to erase Sandy’s destruction from Seaside Heights by Memorial Day, the start of the Jersey Shore’s important summer tourist season.
With just over a week to go, more than half the boardwalk has been completed, but there’s a lot of work left to do, said Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers.
“We’ve got to get the ramps in, we got to get the railings,” he said. “Everything’s being custom made: 300 benches with the flip-backs, 74 gas-style lights.”
There’s fencing to be put up. Electric, plumbing, and public address systems have yet to be installed.
“So there’s a tremendous amount of other work that needs to be done,” Mayor Akers said. “But that doesn’t mean that [the boardwalk] can’t be operational and be done as our visitors are coming here.”
The roller coaster’s removal was enough to convince Elaine Buleri and her husband, Ben, to come back to Seaside Heights for the first time since the storm on Oct 29.
“It means that there’s a new beginning,” she said, noting the area looked better than she expected. “People will be able to come this summer and things will somewhat be able to get back to normal.”
The couple lives in neighboring Toms River, and said while today’s demolition shows progress, they know many of Sandy’s less well-known victims are still struggling.
And while Casino Pier will reopen for Memorial Day, the company’s not sure how many rides will be running. In addition to the JetStar, they lost a large section of the pier and a handful of other rides during the storm.
But the company did announce one new attraction to be installed later this summer: a thrill ride called the Superstorm.