On the evening of Thursday, June 14, a rollercoaster in Daytona Beach derailed and sent six riders to the hospital. In August 2016, a 10-year-old boy died while riding a waterslide in Kansas City. Both of these traumatic events have sparked investigations into the designs of the rides and the liability of amusement parks.
Sand Blaster in Daytona Beach
Six of the ten riders on the Sand Blaster roller coaster were rushed to the hospital after the three-car coaster was jostled off its tracks in the middle of the ride. Two of the riders were transported as trauma alerts. The car carrying the front two riders came completely off the track and caused the two front riders to fall over 30 feet to the ground. Other riders were left helplessly dangling. While it has not been determined why exactly the car came off the track, a local news report indicated that the ride had a “spotty maintenance record.” The coaster opened on the Boardwalk in August 2013. It was bought from a park in Delaware and was 40 years old at the time.
Is the Rollercoaster Safe?
Cell phone footage taken just hours before the crash showed workers welding parts of the ride. Records show that the ride had been closed at least once in seven of the last 18 months due to failed safety inspections. The most recent failed inspection occurred on May 17, less than one month before the accident. Deficiencies listed on that inspection report included structural integrity with excessive corrosion, a cracked track, and cracked bracing. The inspection report from the morning of the accident stated “deficiencies corrected.” The Florida Department of Agriculture has launched a new investigation into the ride’s design. Some individuals injured in this accident are pursuing a lawsuit against the park. The park could be held liable for the injuries of the riders if investigations show park owners were negligent in their maintenance of the ride.
Verrückt in Kansas City
Verrückt is the German word for insane. Unfortunately, the ride lived up to its name when a raft launched off the slide and caused the death of a ten-year-old boy. The boy was decapitated by the netting surrounding the slide. Since his death in 2016, the ride has been permanently closed and the park’s owner and co-designer of the ride, Jeff Henry, and ride designer, John Schooley, has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in addition to 17 other felonies. These men allegedly made improper operation and design decisions despite the known dangers of the slide. Verrückt was the tallest waterslide when it opened in 2014, standing at 168’7”.
Never Safe to Begin With
The Verrückt waterslide’s grand opening was delayed several times due to design defects. For example, in April 2014 sandbags were seen flying off the ride during testing, so the park reconstructed the lower section of the ride. Henry and Schooley originally considered having an age restriction on the ride because of its extreme nature but decided to remove it shortly before it opened. An investigation later found that neither of these men had the engineering experience necessary for designing such a complex water slide.
Authorities stated that the boy was sitting in the front of the raft and, at only 74 pounds, caused an uneven distribution of weight that contributed to the raft going airborne. Had he been in the center of the raft between the two other riders – both weighing around 200 lbs – the raft may have never left the slide. But that is beside the point. If a rider’s safety depends on the weight distribution of its riders, it is not a safe ride, to begin with.
Holding Negligent Parties Accountable
Amusement park owners and ride designers have a duty to ensure rides are designed carefully and receive frequent safety inspections. Further, amusement park employees and customers need to follow the rules of each ride. The rules are based on the safety considerations for each ride and are intended to keep patrons safe. As we see in these two sad stories, tragedies can happen when rides are rushed through the design and inspection processes. GoldenbergLaw is committed to holding negligent designers and manufacturers accountable for not prioritizing the safety of the product. Contact us for a free consultation.