September 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 four (4) included reports, plus three (3) previously un-recapped reports from prior periods and one report of an excluded event type. 

Date of last update: 26 April 2022

06 September 2021, a six year old girl was fatally injured at a drop-ride attraction “Haunted Mine Drop” at Glenwood Caverns (US CO). This 110′ drop ride is underground to provide the haunted mine ambience. Initial reports quite properly declined to comment on the cause of the event, but also failed to describe what the event was. Were all parts of the ride in their proper position when the ride cycle ended? Was the rider in the seat when the ride cycle ended? These statements do not prejudice the determination of cause or responsibility – they simply clarify what kind of event occurred and discourage unhelpful speculation. Subsequent coverage includes emergency radio communication which indicates the rider had separated from the ride vehicle, as well as interviews with ride designer indicating that over-the-shoulder restraints had not been used, to make the ride more exciting. Ongoing coverage shifted toward discussion of the status of liability waivers in Colorado, and away from how exactly the rider was exposed to harm. After 10 days, the focus of coverage progressed to the park’s immunity from liability due to acquiring waivers from guests that excuse even negligence, and still had not reported explicitly that the injury occurred after the guest separated from the seat. Analysts were also commenting on the presumed defence that the ride passed all inspections and “met all requirements”, but media reports have not explored what “requirements” exist. ASTM F2291 provides guidance on restraint design given acceleration profiles, but is only mandated if adopted by the jurisdiction. Update of 24 September, at long last, it is explicitly stated the rider was not in the seat when the ride cycle concluded. The investigation determined that the deceased was seated on top of the lap belt and the operator overrode the alarms that the lap belt was not fastened. The report used station surveillance video to determine what had occurred. This reinforces the tremendous investigative value of video. The reported description of the operators’ actions resembles a pattern of focused attention, which can be dysfunctional when the focus is on a misunderstood problem. The operator interpreted the error message as a specific meaning, but the error was due to a different fault. Operator error is a proximate fault, but the error appears to have been shaped by the interface and system knowledge available to the operators. Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link | Link

06 September 2021, Six Flags Great Adventure Hurricane Harbor water park (US NJ) an adult rider reportedly sustained of back and neck pain on the Tornado water slide, an attraction that uses four-person rafts along a slide path, followed by a drop from a funnel into a catch pool. The park spokesperson indicated that the tube overturned when another rider separated from the tube. In this case, the park has promptly stated the other guest deliberately exited the tube, linking the responsibility for the injury to the action of the other guest. Link | Link | Link | Link

Editorial comment: compare these two cases. In the first, spokespeople are quick to insist that no information can be provided because it is premature to talk about cause. In the second, they are immediately ready to describe events when able to point to a guest at fault.

06 September, at Jardim Sidereal in Brazil, a “barra de proteção” (possibly a part of the restraint device that became detached, or a similar loose part left on a seat) fell from a moving Kamikaze (vertical revolving ride) while the gondola was inverted at elevation. No injuries were reported from this ride malfunction, though the report indicates some bystanders made evasive moves to avoid being struck. Link

12 September 2021, three teenagers in the vicinity of a spinning pendulum ride “Super Flip 360” at Funland, Rehoboth Beach Delaware, were struck by debris when the ride’s air storage tank failed. Two were treated and released at hospital while one remains more seriously injured. Fluids, including air, under pressure put stress on their containers, and a malfunction or rupture can send pieces a large distance, as well as emitting loud noise. Subsequent reports described the source of some injuries as “environmental conditions”, implying the noise or air pressure released by the the nearby rupture or release of compressed air, had injured all three, while one of the three had also been struck by debris. Link | Link

Reports of injury in previous periods

In October 2020, a paraplegic man had reportedly sustained injury to his leg when he rode the “Wicked” roller coaster at Lagoon Park (US UT), and his leg was not properly restrained. As the ride vehicle returned to the unload station, his foot was outside the vehicle and was trapped between the train and the platform, a gap of less than 2″, resulting in multiple fractures. As he had no sensation in the leg, he was unable to sense the injury until a witness remarked on it. Link | Link

A report from October 2019 was revisited in the context of litigation. Two people fell from a zipline in Australia, one being fatally injured, when the wire rope reportedly slipped out of the rope grips at a platform in a canopy tour. Link

A report from 2019 is also reported in light of pandemic-related delays in litigation, and obstacles to deposing foreign-based witnesses. A guest’s foot extended beyond the edge of the ride vehicle became entangled between the ride vehicle and unload platform as the vehicle reached the end of the ride cycle on E.T. at Universal Studios Florida. Link

Cases from March 2021 and July 2021 were updated with new reporting.

Excluded reports

Infectious diseases are outside the scope of the recaps. However, a case was reported in which a young boy died from primary amoebic meningoencephalitis caused by the Naegleria fowleri amoeba acquired during waterpark exposure. Investigation noted lapses in documentation of checks of chlorination. 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 (, and to broader occupational and public safety issues of performance, error, investigation and inspection, and to disability and accessibility.