Theme park summer fun and mortal danger

Photo Illustrative only - not meant to show a ride where riders were hurt or killed.
Photo Illustrative only - not meant to show a ride where riders were hurt or killed.

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2014 – How safe are theme park attractions?  Reports are that nationally the number of injuries at parks has been dropping. However, accidents have happened.

Most recently a pine tree fell on the track of a roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California.  The front car of the Ninja roller coaster collided with a branch lying across the tracks.  22 riders had a three hour wait, dangling upside down, while rescue crews evacuated them from the coaster one at a time.

“It took about 45 minutes to get any kind of a response,” Mr. Ead told CBS Los Angeles, adding that he would not be returning to Magic Mountain. “We just want to get out of here.”

Two riders were transported to a local hospital, though injuries were categorized as “minor”.

A survey of injuries per million conducted by the National Safety Council’s Research & Statistical Service Group found that from 2001 to 2011 the number of theme park related injuries dropped from 8.2 per million visitors to 4.3.

The very first recorded theme park death occurred in 1930.  At Omaha, Nebraska’s Krug Park faulty equipment on the Big Dipper coaster came loose, sending the car to the ground killing four.

The deadliest theme park accidents include:

Mindbender, Canada:

Bad maintenance caused a three loop indoor roller coaster to derail from the tracks in 1986.  Missing bolts in the cars wheels caused the accident.  When the cars crashed, the safety bars released, dumping some riders out.

Three persons died, one was almost killed, due to a lack of maintenance.

Batman Roller Coaster, Six Flags, Georgia:

A young man was decapitated in 2008 when he climbed over two fences, each clearly marked as being “off limits” and “dangerous”  The young mans goal was to retrieve a hat that fell off during the ride. As the ride came around the track, it hit the young man, removing his head.

Space Journey – Overseas China Town East, Shenzhen, China: 

40 people in four separate cabins, all spinning at the same time. Until one broke off, crashing into the others in June of 2010.  The ride fell 50′ to the ground, badly injuring ten. Five people died.

Ride of Steel, Darien Lake Amusement Park, Buffalo, NY: 

One of the saddest stories of a roller coaster death comes from 2011 when Iraq war veteran Sgt. Jame Hackemer flew out of the coaster as it went over an incline.  Hackemer was strapped in, however the harness did not account for the fact that Hackemer was a double amputee as a result of a war related injury.  Sadly, Hackemer had asked very clearly which rides were safe for him to ride.

This summer, Action Park Vernon, New Jersey has reopened, and I am sure they are hoping to leave the parks history in the past. Action Park was closed at the end of the season in 1996, just reopening this year with new ownership, re engineered rides and the safety and fun of its customers at the fore front.

It wasn’t that way back in the day.

Rides like the Alpine Slide had riders hurtling down a step hill on bobsled like coasters.  The carts flew down a concrete plum, which caused some pretty serious abrasions and injuries.

Water slides had loop de loops that would throw people out at speeds to land hard on the water, skimming across the concrete “pool”.

Action Park was an insurance nightmare and doctors at the nearby hospital gave it nom de plumes like Traction Park, Accident Park and Class Action Park. Insurance claims were such an issue for the park, a bit of insurance fraud included the opening of an off shore insurance company, owned and operated by the park owners.

Six people are known to have died at the park, but that is all behind them now as the park has reopened with safety features galore in place.

In other news: 

No one has been injured at the The World’s Tallest Waterslide found in Kansas City, Kansas. Riders are calling Verruckt, which is German for insane a “tower of terror”

The slide is located at the Schlitterbahn water park and it requires riders to climb a 270 stairs, higher than the Statue of Liberty for a fast 40-45 mile per hour ride that takes about 11 seconds.

No word on how long it takes to get up that staircase.

Folks on twitter have been tweeting about the long waits, some reported to be long as seven, seven and a half hours to ride the new Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios Orlando.

The new park zone is called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley. Universal’s original Harry Potter park, called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Hogsmeade, opened in 2010

Universal spokesman Tom Schroder confirmed the long lines, though he noted that wait time varied throughout the day. Universal workers were handing out tickets with return times printed on them to ease congestion.

Tickets to Universal Studios Orlando, for 4 days, are $154 for adults, $142 for children.



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  • travelsonic

    Correction: Action Park closed end of season, tried to reopen in 1997, was sold to a Canadian company called Intrawest along with the Vernon Valley-Great Gorge ski resort. Intrawest revamped the resort, opened it as Mountain Creek in 1998. They had financial issues, and in May 2010 sold it back to the original owners. This year the park went back to its old name partly due to the brand recognition and marketing, and IMO strictly partly because they want to make the park full of unique, thrillign participation/rider-controlled rides like it used to be, just without the accidents.

    And no, they don’t want to leave their dangerous past in the past completely – just want to keep rides, experiences reasonably safe for patrons… they relish their fame and infamy, and IMO rightly so – that was one hell of a unique place, and as dangerous as it was, it was really, really innovative too.

  • Samuel Sung

    In some ways, disrespect for liberty and individual responsibility results from misunderstanding the lessons of science.