June 2021 Monthly Ride Report Recap

The pandemic-suppressed operation of amusement attractions has in turn suppressed the occurrence of patron injuries, as reflected in media coverage. However, as attractions worldwide resume operations, the number of media-reported cases has slightly increased. There were 13 covered events from June and 5 reports from previous periods that had not been recapped.

Date of last update: 20 July 2021.

1 June 2021 at Reunion Resort Water Park (Florida, USA), a 6-year-old guest was rescued from near-drowning and treated in hospital. Link  

1 June 2021, a Sizzler operated at Funderworld (UK) started while guests were unloading and unprotected from the ride forces. The injuries reportedly sustained by two riders required medical treatment. A patron quoted personnel stating there had been a pre-existing malfunction of the generator, but a link between that condition and the premature start of motion is not logically obvious nor made clear. A patron also quoted personnel as expressing an apology for presumed misoperation. Link

2 June 2021, amidst media attention to operational issues at Funderworld (UK) the previous day, a patron reported several unpleasant but cosmetic dissatisfactions, but also alleged that his own 7-year-old daughter had self-extracted from a token-activated bumper car while other cars were in motion, without operator interception. Link

4 June 2021, at North Commons Waterpark (Minnesota, USA), it was reported that a 12-year-old after-hours trespasser was found drowned in a waterpark pool. Link | Link | Link

5 June 2021, a roller coaster rider on “Voyage” at Holiday World (Indiana, USA) was unconscious when the train arrived at the unload station, and subsequently was pronounced deceased. With no irregularities having been found in the popular roller coaster itself, the occurrence was considered a medical event. While the ride inspection finding the coaster operating as designed, the autopsy found that the deceased guest had sustained a ruptured artery, with medical commentators noting that many people experience increased heart rate and blood pressure during exciting experiences like roller coasters. This can be excessive stress for blood vessels weakened due to high blood pressure or coronary artery disease, for example, in the same way that people with degenerative disc disease could be unable to tolerate the physical load on their spine. Link | Link | Link | Link | Link
UPDATED 8 July 2021 with autopsy results and comments.

5 June 2021, at Fun City fairground (UK), two injuries occurred on a kiddy swing ride that was not named or described. A witness described an unbalanced load, with “one side of the swings had about 12 kids on it, and the other had none”, and the entire device tipping over, pinning the children underneath. With a lack of a name of the ride, or a description or photo, reports such as this make it difficult to discern if this is a design flaw, deficient installation at the mobile operation site, or operation contrary to documented procedures, or other possible types of failure. Link | Link | Link | Link

One of the above news reports also referenced an injury on a different ride, “the Booster,” at the same venue on the same day. In the latter occurrence, a patron reported a child sustained an injured hand, pinched in the restraint device lowered by an operator, which was rectified by the operator and the child was referred for comfort on-site. Link

11 June 2021, at Splashin’ Safari waterpark (Indiana, USA), a woman “hurt her back” on a waterslide. The event of injury or mechanism was unclear. She reportedly required airlift to hospital. While it seems more likely that she sustained a musculoskeletal injury, it is not possible to state that she did not lacerate her back. A clear statement of basic facts is needed to fairly classify events, and need not rely on imprudent speculation. Link

13 June 2021, at Six Flags Great Adventure (New Jersey, USA), on the “Saw Mill Log Flume”, a boat reportedly tipped up on an angle, causing injuries requiring hospital treatment for two guests. Media reports provided no clarification of the orientation of the tipping (i.e., pitch or roll), the magnitude of tipping, or the location along the ride path where the tipping occurred. Information like this would make much more sense out of the report. One report mentioned a broken railing, implying that this interfered with the path of the boat, but the reports were unclear. Update in July reports that a broken guide rail accounted for the boats out of position, and that repairs have been approved. Link | Link | Link

16 June 2021, at Bridges Bay waterpark (Iowa, USA), a toddler was rescued from a near-drowning. The child was noticed and rescued by another patron. The park permit required 12 outdoor lifeguards and at the time reportedly had only one certified lifeguard in the office, and four uncertified lifeguards on duty. Link

20 June 2021, a man drowned in a wave pool at Fresno’s Island Water Park in California USA. Some reports speculated the guest was trapped under an inner tube. A follow-up does not clarify the sequence of events but itemized several other deficiencies documented by the regulator and disputed by the park. Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link

20 June 2021, social media reported that a Guest at Epcot’s “Living with the Land” attraction self-extracted from the boat to pilfer a cucumber from the scenery. Subsequent major media coverage included witness reports that the Guest had left the boat four separate times, and had held a minor child out over the edge of the boat so the child could also manually experience the scenery. As rides in show buildings are under continuous surveillance, a public address voice made corrective remarks advising guests to keep all body parts within the ride vehicle, but the social media videos show a rider exiting, stumbling, and being aided by a companion who also arose in the moving boat. Link | Link

20 June 2021, an 11-year-old patron at The Branson Coaster (Missouri USA) described as having Marfan Syndrome (a condition associated with long limbs, among other things) and “15% vision” in only one eye was injured after falling and being trapped for over an hour beneath a “roller coaster” that had stopped and restarted. In subsequent coverage, it was clearer that this was a “mountain coaster” and not a “roller coaster”. The difference is highly relevant to this case. See further discussion of the differences in a case report here.
The seriously injured patron was rescued by emergency responders and airlifted to hospital for treatment of fractured arms, legs, skin grafts, and other treatments.
Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link

Occurrence in previous periods

In addition, media reports often cover occurrences from previous periods, in connection with updates on litigation.

On the sixth anniversary of a tragic “Smiler” roller coaster collision at Alton Towers in 2015 in which two patrons sustained leg amputations and two others were seriously injured, one of those patrons revisited the case in the media. Link

A case reported on 4 June, related to an occurrence in January 2020, in which a rider sustained fractured leg on a suspended roller coaster, the “Anaconda” at Gold Reef City (South Africa). The rider reported that the seat in front moved back, fracturing her leg. In the litigation, the park is relying on the disclaimer of any injury, and noted the patron must have been out of the required riding position. It can certainly be seen that riders would be expected to keep knees bent and thereby out of the way of the movement of the seat in front of them. However, not a few riders do extend their legs forward, kick them, and make other movements while riding a suspended coaster, where legs are free to dangle or be moved about. Link

On 10 June, news coverage revisited a 2019 case at Six Flags Great Adventure (New Jersey, USA) in which a rider’s nose was broken when struck by the lap bar released by the ride attendant, on the Parachute Drop ride. Link

On 14 June, another 2019 case was reported from Parko Paliatso, Cyprus. A mother and son sustained severe injury (traumatic brain injury and fractures) after being ejected from seats of a Star Tower ride, when their seats struck part of another ride as the gondola was lowered, but was still rotating at speed. This occurrence was blamed on “human error” but reports provide insufficient information about whether the ride footprint allowed adequate clearance (in accordance with operating documents) to prevent collisions between adjacent rides. Link | Link

On 23 June, reports covered testimony in Ohio, USA, to advocate splash pad water jet pressure, in response to a child who sustained severe vaginal injuries requiring surgical remediation on an unspecified date in November 2019 at an unspecified Ohio waterpark. Testimony was provided that only Florida has a maximum water pressure for waterparks, so the facility argued it had not violated any requirements, although speculated that an operator may have turned the pressure higher than usual on that day. This proposed regulation makes sense because children often stand over water jets and with sufficient pressure, water jets can cause injury. Link | Link UPDATED 8 July 2021.

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About Kathryn Woodcock

Dr. Kathryn Woodcock is Professor at Toronto's Ryerson University, teaching, researching, and consulting in the area of human factors engineering / ergonomics particularly applied to amusement rides and attractions (https://thrilllab.blog.ryerson.ca), and to broader occupational and public safety issues of performance, error, investigation and inspection, and to disability and accessibility.