August 2021 Monthly Ride Report Recap

As amusement attraction attendance increases the number of people exposed to rides, we expect the number of media reports to increase. As of the last update, there were 10 included reports, plus three (3) excluded reports recapped, one stalled ride treated as “news”, and one previously un-recapped report from a prior period. 

Date of last update: 2 September 2021.

On 01 August 2021, a Himalaya ride at the Tepontla employers’ fair in Mexico ejected three riders after a malfunction. Description is scant. One reports “uno de los carros se salió del riel”, a “derailment”, while others report “una falla en el seguro de los asientos”, which sounds like a restraint failure. Another quoted a witness that “Se rompió el tubo de seguridad del carrito, todos cayeron desde lo alto”, the safety bar failed and the riders “fell from height”. The ride moves around an undulating circular path, which pushes riders against the outer side-wall of their seat. The vehicles are not elevated from the level of the loading platform, but in the event of restraint failure, a rider may be ejected past the platform down to the midway level. The reports noted that the rides did not have permits to operate, but did have insurance. The insurance was unusual focus of coverage of this story, as though the extreme malfunction and serious injury is significantly mitigated by access to compensation for the expenses. Link | Link | Link | Link

On 03 August 2021, a fatal drowning occurred in a pool at Princeton Aquatic Center in Indiana (US). Link | Link

On 08 August 2021, at Waterworld (UK) a drowning was reportedly averted by a rescue by lifeguards. Link

On 11 August 2021, a child using an inflatable bounce at Gulliver’s Valley Park (UK) bounced entirely off the device, striking a surrounding fence, sustaining a fractured arm. While inflatable bounces are classified as patron-directed devices, they can still impose ride forces on a patron due to the bouncing of other patrons on the same device. (An entire genre of “America’s Funniest Videos” is predicated on this phenomenon.) Link

On 12 August 2021, at Landmark Adventure Park (UK), some wheels of the Runaway Timber Train separated from the track, producing a “loud bang”. The coaster was immobilized and riders assisted off. Two children were treated by medics; eight others were injured. Link | Link | Link

On 14 August 2021, a widely observed event occurred at Lagoon Park (US UT), in which a patron was seen hanging by his hands from the lap bar of a gondola (Skyride), seemingly unperturbed, in a posture that would not typically be achieved by slipping out of the seats. The Skyride crosses the park, but the patron fell and sustained life-threatening injuries, and died in hospital. Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link

On 14 August 2021, a boy was found unconscious in life-threatening condition at a waterpark area of Six Flags America (US MD). Link | Link | Link

On 15 August 2021, a patron in the queue for the iconic Top Thrill Dragster roller coaster at Cedar Point (US OH) was struck by a metal part “the size of a man’s hand”. Subsequent reports from the regulator, Ohio Department of Agriculture, identified the part as the “flag plate”, a bracket mounted low on the back of a train to be detected by sensors as the indication the train has passed out of a block of track. (This arrangement is integral to the operation of multiple trains on the same track, to ensure that trains do not collide. If the previous train has not cleared a block of track, the next train will be stopped by brakes in the track before entering that block of track.) The regulator noted that many of the bracket’s fasteners had been dislodged and the bracket had struck the track prior to separating completely.
Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link

Also on 15 August 2021, an entire ride vehicle separated from the trough of a trough-style mountain coaster at Plopsa Coo, in Belgium. Reporting suggests the rider did not brake sufficiently for the speed and curvature of the ride path and was unable to keep the vehicle in the trough. The rider struck against a structure, sustaining a fracture. This case has been logged as “ride forces” rather than rider behaviour, as there is no objective indication when and how much the rider needs to act; it is a design choice to rely on unreliable control methods of rider intuition and strength. Link

30 August 2021, a rider in Turkey aspirated vomit and lost consciousness on a spinning pendulum called “Kamikaze” at Hayrola Luna Park in Istanbul, Turkey. Observers reported asking the operator to stop the ride, but the ride was not stopped and the woman was unconscious after being removed from the ride, and was declared dead at the hospital. This case reinforces that any rider could experience a medical reaction at any time, and operators must have the means and the skill to respond. Link

Excluded reports

A Newsweek report on 24 August 2021 recounted a series of multiple fractures sustained by riders on the roller coaster Do-Dodonpa at Fuji-Q Highlands in Japan over a period of several months. RRRR does not log media reports that cover patterns or multiple reports unless each report is completely reported within the article. None of the dates or specific events were cited in this report. While this report does cite our study of global ride accident media reports, it cites only our reference to IAAPA’s characterization of accidents as being associated with rider behaviour, while the analysis in the paper notes that ride malfunctions dominate global media coverage. (Of relevance to this news report, ongoing analysis not yet published appears to show injuries due to ride forces being a large proportion of cases below the level of media attention or external reportability.) Link | Link

For similar reasons, a report published 23 August 2021 of two injuries at Plopsaqua Landen-Hannuit (Belgium) waterpark lazy river attraction are not logged, as insufficient information is provided about each case. One patron reported injuring his arm against the wall, damaging shoulder tendons, and the other patron slipped at the entry, breaking her arm, ascribing her fall to a lack of anti skid coating. The park cited a favourable inspection by TÜV, and deferred any residual risk to the patrons. Link

A 22 August 2021 report about Six Flags accidents is likewise excluded, but a separate post recounts some of the events, as several overlap cases that were logged individually.

Stalled or stopped rides

A propeller-style ride described as new and being tested was stopped with the seats at an elevated and inverted position for “30 to 40 minutes” at Kyrlay amusement park in Russia. As the report indicates the ride was being tested, it is unclear whether the riders on board were patrons or employees or indeed test dummies. The coverage describes “terrified fairgoers” but quotes only spectators, not the occupants of the ride, which seats typically up to four riders at a time. No injuries were reported in the coverage. Link

Prior periods

Events occurring in prior periods receive media coverage for various reasons, often because of litigation milestones (claims filed, decision reached), anniversaries of notable events, and references arising from recent similar events. 

An event in May 2021 was added to the recaps for that month.

A report covering litigation revisited a case from August 2019 in which a paraplegic patron attended Six Flags Great Adventure (US NJ), sustaining severe injuries to unrestrained legs, moved by ride forces on The Joker. The patron was reportedly a frequent visitor to the park, who had visited the guest services offices and consulted ride attendants prior to riding on that specific day, but had never experienced this particular ride. Although the ride access guide requires for this ride “two functioning legs that include the knee absent of prosthetic devices,” while the patron’s paraplegia constituted two non-functioning legs, the patron was reportedly told he would be able to ride. Eligibility of patrons with physical disabilities should be based on specific policies determined by the ride analysis and consideration of the nature of the ride and its physical demands. As the eligibility requirement (two functioning legs) was documented in the access guide, this ride analysis presumably would identify the demand to use muscular exertion to maintain leg position during strong ride forces, an ability not available to paraplegic patrons. Paraplegic patrons might be accommodated on such a ride with a supplementary restraint system, but this was reportedly not available. Link

Editorial: Our aim is for everyone to be eligible to choose to ride anything they would like, and we believe all riders, including disabled riders, have the prerogative to choose an uncomfortable experience. As long as comfort recommendations are provided, this should be the rider’s prerogative. At the same time, no one expects a ride operating for the public to expose them to potential permanent injury or death. Where technology or operational practices cannot mitigate the laws of physics, the ride analysis may identify eligibility criteria to ensure that the rider is able to tolerate and resist the effects of the ride’s physics. It is important that ride attendants apply these criteria, relying on their manager as needed for support, if they feel uncomfortable declining admission to a disabled person. This does not mean ride attendants should spontaneously make up additional eligibility requirements to unilaterally exclude patrons. This is too often based on misunderstanding and prejudices about disabilities and visible characteristics. Where a ride attendant has a serious safety concern not documented in the ride policies, management should be involved, to consult with the patron. A patron is better informed about their condition than the ride attendant or manager. However, a rider who has never experienced a ride cannot authoritatively determine whether its ride forces are tolerable. The consultation process would entail clearly explaining to the patron the nature of the ride and its demands, to arrive at a well informed consensus about the suitability of the experience.

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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.