March 2022 Monthly Ride Report Recap

In March 2022, media reports covered six (6) recordable ride accidents, three of which involved a fatal injury. These included three (3) malfunctions involving loss of structural integrity of the device, two (2) riders ejected from a ride in motion, one without restraint devices and one with restraint devices that did not retain the rider in the seat, and one (1) injury sustained by a rider moved by ride forces.

In the month, there were also three (3) headlines about rider evacuations, a fatal worker injury, an unintended contact during ride testing, and a rider losing momentum during a waterslide experience and crawling to an evacuation point. Reports also revisited a case in previous periods arising out of settlement in the litigation for the cases.

Date of last update: 26 May 2022.

On 07 March 2022, on the Jungle Mouse roller coaster at Hamanako Palpal, in Japan, upon the train arriving at the brake zone prior to the unload station, the deceleration reportedly caused the rider’s torso to flail forward and impact against the positioning bar, fracturing their sternum. Link | Link

On 11 March 2022, a two-person ride vehicle on an Alpine Bobs-style horizontally revolving ride at Playland Park in Peru was observed to detach from the structure and bounce along the platform as the ride continued to rotate, injuring two occupants of that vehicle. Link

On 12 March 2022, a 15 year old girl celebrating her birthday died of injuries sustained when she was ejected from a Tagadà ride at a fair in Galliate, Italy. This ride rotates horizontally and tips the axis of rotation 40 degrees while riders are seated around the perimeter. While standing on the ride is a serious hazard, the ride has no restraint devices. There were reports that the ride was too close to trees and the rider was struck against some branches. Link | Link | Link

On 18 March 2022, at Tepalcingo Fair, in Mexico, a gondola detached from a gondola wheel, and the two occupants were injured, one fatally. Link | Link

On 18 March 2022, two riders were injured (one hospitalized with a head injury) at a fair at a shopping mall in Lauro de Freitas, Bahia, Brazil, operated by Magic Games. Reports show an image of a ride vehicle from the ride, reportedly a Crazy Dance, on the ground outside the perimeter fence of the ride. Link | Link

UPDATED On 24 March 2022, a 14 year old boy on the FreeFall attraction at Icon Park in Orlando, Florida, fell from his seat at elevation. Riders ascend the “world’s tallest” 430-foot tower and the seating benches tip forward for thrilling suspense, before free-falling toward a magnetic brake zone above the ground level. The restraint device was reportedly in the closed/locked position at the end of the ride cycle, but the rider was not in the seat. The teen was described by his parent as 6’5″, 340 pounds, while the ride manual referenced a maximum passenger weight of 130 kg (287 pounds) “according to EN 13814”. This standard does not directly set weight limits for riders; it requires that the device must tolerate this rider weight without structural overload or wear. A load greater than this weight could overload the structure causing harm to the structure or components (because the structure and components have been analyzed only up to that weight), but the analysis is not related to whether heavier guests would be harmed by the experience. Indeed, an analysis may consider this as the average across multiple seats because it pertains to the performance of the ride, not the effect of the motion on the rider. Because few rides actually weigh guests at the point of service, and guessing people’s weight is so challenging that there is literally a midway game based on it, guests are rarely screened based on their quantitative weight, although there are some devices that discreetly weigh guests or groups of guests on a “red light, green light” basis where the ride is sensitive to the mass of the ride vehicle. What guests are typically screened on is the satisfactory fit of the restraint device. The designer would ideally specify a restraint and containment system that is as large as it needs to be to accommodate the largest rider who does not exceed the maximum weight used in the design calculations, but no larger. One concern with very large people is that their weight distribution may be disproportionate. If the majority of their mass is on the same side of the restraint device, under certain ride forces, the momentum on that effectively unrestrained mass could pull the smaller portion of their body free of the restraint. Another concern is that the restraint may not close sufficiently to prevent the rider sliding out below it. This is prevented by interlocking the power to the ride cycle with sensors ensuring restraints are closed to a required level. Reporting based on the regulator’s initial report indicates the rider separated from the seat as the dropping seat unit was decelerated by the magnetic brake zone near the end of the descent. Commentators have stated that the restraint device was lowered and appeared to contact the rider’s abdomen rather than approach the lap/thigh/crotch area. Some operators may have taken that to indicate that the rider was larger than the design intention for the ride, but clearly the rider was accepted to ride. Forensic engineering investigation established that the proximity sensors that interlock with ride cycle had been adjusted to “pass” at a wider opening, allowing larger riders to ride, and there was evidence the rider slid out below the restraint, over the “horn” on the seat between the thighs. While this horn appears to stop forward movement while a person is at rest in the seat, a 340-pound body builds up considerable momentum from several hundred feet of freefall. Fatty body mass does not behave as rigidly as bone or muscle, and under strong forces, can be reshaped, which can allow it to pass through a gap that visually appears to obstruct it. Follow-up coverage presents arguments used in litigation. Much of the complaint focuses on the operator’s failure to reject the rider who exceeded the “weight limit”. This reflects a misunderstanding of the “weight limit”. Had the restraints retained the rider in the seat, the rider’s weight would not have been an issue. In fact, it is quite possible that heavier riders have successfully experienced this ride but had body shapes that fit the restraints. The issue is the rider’s abdominal size that did not fit the manufacturer’s restraint settings, and the modified restraint device enabled the rider to ride but left a gap of excessive size, through which the rider was able to exit the seat. It is the rider’s size, and the restraint gap, that is the issue, not the rider’s weight. Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link (includes ride manual) | Link | Link (official reports) | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | 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. 

Updates were posted to some reports in February 2022.

Excluded reports

Some media reports are outside the scope of the database. 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.

05 March 2022, emergency responders using a fire truck ladder evacuated 10 riders from a stalled sky ride (horizontal ski lift across the Montgomery Zoo) following the established procedures for such an event. Link

20 March 2022, firefighters evacuated two riders from a tower swing carousel at a fair in Amsterdam-Zuidoost in Netherlands, within one hour of the ride losing power while the swings were elevated. Link

29 March 2022, a worker was struck by a roller coaster train and sustained fatal head injuries. The Olympia Looping coaster, reportedly the world’s largest mobile roller coaster, was operating in a park in Vienna, Austria. Media reports indicate the worker was too close to the track at the time, but no reason for the encroachment was suggested. Link

On an unreported date, a guest on Norwegian Cruise Lines stalled while sliding through the ship’s closed-tube translucent waterslide, and after crawling a short way, exited through a trap door in the waterslide that exists for the express purpose of evacuating passengers who become stuck. Because of breathless sensation-seeking social media, the video of the moment the guest stalls has gained millions of views on social and conventional media and comments about the sheer terror it creates. Social media is essentially uncontrollable but conventional media should not miss the opportunity to reinforce that amusement rides and devices anticipate a “plan B” for a large number of possible occurrences. Loss of momentum is an easily anticipated possibility in sliding, particularly of light weight riders at uphill points on the slide path. Failure to report equally on the designed safety features does a disservice to consumers and the industry. Link

On an unreported date, a guest riding the new roller coaster Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens during previews struck his hand against a structure while the ride was in motion. Ride design standards prescribe a minimum clearance envelope (area clear of any obstructions) of at least 3 inches beyond the arm reach of a large male at all times along the ride path. In response to this exposure, the park reportedly removed some structures to remedy this hazard. Link

Coverage of litigation reported on a patron’s spinal injury using the Banzai waterslide at Aqualand waterpark, in Mallorca, Spain, on an unspecified date in 2019. The guest reportedly sustained a spinal injury that left her four inches shorter, and in chronic pain. The waterslide experience appears to feature guests being accelerated on descent of the slide and then propelled by their momentum along the surface of the water on a board. The guest has alleged she was given inadequate instructions and separated from her board before hitting the water. Link

“Two evacuations in six months” were reported from Dora’s Sky Railway, a train ride in a New Jersey mall, due to an electrical component. Coverage indicates that these planned evacuations, using equipment maintained for this purpose, were uneventful. State officials were reportedly investigating which component was responsible. 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.