Visual effects clip misrepresented as genuine roller coaster struck by lightning

A dramatic video appearing to show a roller coaster struck by lightning was created with visual effects, contrary to claims by Facebook posts with millions of views that presented it as a genuine theme park disaster. A Spain-based digital artist told AFP he made the clip.

"You're still alive when you go up, but you're dead when you come down. Can't believe that was their last ride," read Tagalog text superimposed on the video shared on Facebook on May 28.

The slow-motion footage, which racked up 2.5 million views, appears to show a roller coaster travelling up a steep vertical loop before it gets struck by lightning and cruises down in a thick cloud of black smoke.

<span>Screenshot of the false Facebook post taken on June 19, 2024</span>
Screenshot of the false Facebook post taken on June 19, 2024

The footage was shared in similar Facebook posts here and here.

Some Facebook users appeared to believe the video showed a genuine lightning strike.

"It would be so difficult for the family of those in that roller coaster to accept what happened. They just wanted to have a good time," one commented.

"Maybe someone was filming with their cellphone and that's why lightning struck them," another wrote, apparently referring to the baseless claim that mobile phones can attract lightning.

Visual effects artist

But a keyword search found the original video shows visual effects, not actual footage.

It was first posted in the Instagram account @javier.vfx and the TikTok account @javier.uv on April 8 (archived links here and here).

The footage -- captioned "Lightning Thrill: Rollercoaster" -- has millions of views on both platforms.

The Instagram post's description reads "Animación 3D" -- which translates to 3D animation.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video on Facebook (left) and the original clip on TikTok (right):

<span>Screenshot comparison of the video on Facebook (left) and the original clip on TikTok (right)</span>
Screenshot comparison of the video on Facebook (left) and the original clip on TikTok (right)

The TikTok account posted a video on April 10 showing how the roller coaster animation was made (archived here).

It showed a side-by-side comparison of a 3D model and the more seemingly realistic version with the lightning strike, as shown in the screenshot below:

Javier Urrutia, the owner of the TikTok and Instagram accounts, is a visual effects artist based in Spain.

"I did indeed make that video," he told AFP on June 19.

"The roller coaster video is just a personal project," he said, adding that he showcases his work on Instagram and TikTok.

Urrutia has also posted various visual effects creations, including clips that appear to show a train crashing into a football field and a bridge collapsing (archived here and here).

The false claim has also been debunked by Philippine fact-checking organisation Vera Files.