December 2021 Monthly Ride Report Recap

In December 2021, media reports covered six (6) recordable events plus four (4) headlines about non-recordable events.

Date of last update 5 January 2022.

04 December 2021, riders were participating on a “bucking bronco” device (mechanical single-seat simulator) at a seasonal carnival, Silcock’s Winter Wonderland, in UK. The prospect of ejection from the ride is part of the appeal of the attraction. After having been ejected, a 10 year old boy was still on the floor when an adult rider of a nearby unit was also ejected and reportedly landed on the boy, fracturing his arm. In tabulating this case, we consider that ejection itself is not an unusual event, so the boy’s original fall would not have been tabulated if not for the collision with the other rider. The collision occurred when the adult experiencing an “unload” by body motion due to ride forces, landing on the child. We record two non-fatal injuries due to the collision, the most serious of which was the fracture. While the motion simulator is a single-seat attraction, operators may set up multiples to provide greater ride capacity. Operators must ensure sufficient spacing to avoid collisions not only during ride operation but also during foreseeable unload by ejection. Link

11 December 2021, riders on Montezuma roller coaster at Hopi Hari, Brazil, had a malfunctioning (detached) restraint device during the ride cycle. Media images show riders in the following row making an X with their arms, a gesture promoted by the facility across all of its attractions, to signal the ride operator of a problem requiring a stop. The ride was stopped and riders safely evacuated. This is an excellent communication protocol not only for malfunctions but other rider discomfort. Many instances of self-extraction may originate from riders attempting to solve their own problem because they have no other way to get help to solve the problem. This is recordable in RRRR despite no patron injuries because the event involved the malfunction of a safety component. Link | Link

12 December 2021, two riders (father and teenage son) on a Ferris wheel in Argentina fell about 5m when the seat “broke”. Two girls in line below the fall were also injured. Link

12 December 2021, an adult male rider was fatally injured after reportedly standing on a ride, reportedly under the influence of alcohol. The reports are unclear as to the ride. The official (regulatory) report identifies the Wacky Worm (el gusanito) and this appears in the background of a photo of emergency responders removing the injured guest, but the guest may not have boarded that ride. Additional reports indicated that he boarded the Octopus (el pulpo) and as the rotation was beginning, raised the lap bar and stood up and was ejected, landing near el gusanito. Images of the venue appear to show densely positioned rides, which could result in a person falling from one ride being struck by another. A third report refers to “Tornado” but it is unclear if it refers to the ride model Tornado or a tornado theme of the Octopus, or just a vernacular description of the swirling ride action of the Octopus. The Octopus is a challenging sensation for an intoxicated rider, and in that condition, it is understandable a rider may change their decision to ride and attempt to exit. If operators cannot reliably detect all intoxicated guests, which is difficult, it would be desirable to have a way for guests to signal a problem, as seen earlier. In any case, it should not be possible to open restraints or stand up within them. Link | Link | Link (Appreciation to THRILL Lab assistant Atalia Mejia Liverant for locating and interpreting additional reports.)

16 December 2021, a strong wind blew inflatable devices at an end-of-term school fair in Tasmania, lifting a bouncy castle and zorb balls, and dropping at least nine children age 10 – 12 from an elevation of 10m, with five sustaining fatal injury, and one other dying later in hospital. While the Premier described the occurrence of the event as “inconceivable”, fatal consequences of inflatables blowing away is highly conceivable. The hazard of high wind is a known hazard for inflatable devices, and manufacturers specify how and where to stake the device to the ground and maximum wind speed for occupancy. Zorb balls (in which the patron plays inside the inflated ball that rolls freely around the ground or a pool of water) cannot be staked and use must stop in the event of high wind or the risk of high wind. Diligent operation is also required to ensure the device is used safely, to avoid collision among users and awkward falls that commonly result in fractures and soft tissue injury. The operator was reportedly not a member of the national trade association, and its website was disconnected after the event. Link | Link

19 December 2021, at Feria Acapulco, a four-year-old boy on a Wacky Worm opened the restraint after the ride started to move and stood, and was ejected. He was treated and released from hospital. While the facility contends there was “no mechanical failure”, it should not be mechanically possible for a preschooler to open a restraint device on a moving ride. This may be a failure of the restraint latch, or an operational failure of adequate supervision. Link

Reports of injury in previous 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. None have been reported in December so far.

Excluded reports

Riders stuck on stopped rides are popular topics for human-interest stories. Also excluded are media reports that cover multiple cases without specifics of each case. Employee injuries are also excluded, but can attract media interest.

A report referencing multiple separate events of drowning and near drowning in resort “water parks” was encountered, but the report did not specify type of facility or dates of occurrence. It is nevertheless relevant to repeat the observation that waterpark features have the same risk of submersion as any body of water, therefore all users in the water must be able to swim and children must be closely supervised until they are able to swim. “Close supervision” means within arm’s reach, and not just somewhere in the waterpark.

19 December 2021, a roller coaster at Parque del Café in Colombia was described as “derailing” with reports of “screams”. The riders were evacuated with minimal assistance from a low point in the ride path. The video in the article shows a train slowing as it nears the top of a hill and rolling back and forth through the valley. The video ends before the evacuation, but the train will oscillate through the valley until its momentum is depleted. No “derailment” can be seen. What the video appears to show is a train that is too light to clear a hill. This is not recordable in RRRR because the occurrence appeared to be as intended for “Plan B” for the ride. When a roller coaster is propelled only by the energy it has at the top of the lift hill, and no equipment to apply new energy to the train during the path of the ride, such as a launch system, it is possible that a train occasionally will deplete its energy early and be unable to complete the loop. While the train has anti-rollback devices for the lift hill, and in multi-train roller coasters, brake zones in various places, it is not desirable to prevent rollback along the path of the ride, because it is better to evacuate riders from a stalled train at a low point than at the top of a hill. While a brake in the valley could interrupt the oscillation of the stalled train, sudden braking can introduce the risk of whiplash. The oscillation back and forth through the valley can be unnerving, but comes to a gentle stop. Link

On 25 December 2021, a 22-year-old male employee clearing snow for operation of la Grand Roue de Montréal (giant observation wheel) sustained a work injury and reportedly has died. The owner/operator would not comment further on the nature of the injury event, however the regulator won’t allow resumption of operation until owner submits a safer snow clearing plan. Link

27 December 2021, at Estrella amusement park in Brazil, a “Surf” ride malfunctioned when the bearing seized with the bench in an elevated position. The photo shows the bench not level; the bench typically remains level as it is raised and lowered by a rotating vertical arm. Riders had to be assisted to unload from the elevated position, and none were reportedly injured. Link

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About Kathryn Woodcock

Dr. Kathryn Woodcock is Professor at Toronto Metropolitan 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.