They thought it was odd when their roller coaster car came to a halt about 30 feet from the docking station.
But when they heard the rumble of an onrushing coaster behind them, panic set in.
"You could hear the coaster coming before it hit you," said Kevin Bromagen, 38, of Lincoln, Neb., who was at Disney's California Adventure with his daughter, Taylor. "The car came and smacked me in the back at full speed."
Bromagen and Taylor were walking around the park Friday night, recovering from headaches and stiff necks after the collision of two cars on the California Screamin' roller coaster sent 15 other passengers to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries and shook up dozens more.
"We're still defusing the adrenaline," Bromagen said.
The accident occurred about 6:40 p.m. when a red car rear-ended a purple one at the final helix that completes the 6,000-foot ride.
"A lot of children were yelling and screaming," Bromagen said. "They carted a lot of people off to the hospital."
One passenger had to be taken out on a plank, Anaheim city spokesman John Nicoletti said.
There was no word from investigators as to the cause of the crash. However, some passengers reported that the purple coaster stopped about 20 to 30 feet from the docking station because an empty car was blocking the tracks.
Passengers including Bromagen reported that while the purple car sat waiting for the car in front of it to move, the red coaster came racing down the tracks and rear-ended the second car at what one passenger described as speeds approaching 35 mph.