Another drop tower rope break!

Monday, June 9, 2008 11:11 AM
Apparently another Intamin drop tower has broken its hoist rope.

Photos on the front page of RideAccidents.com show a broken hoist rope on the Hurakan Condor freefall drop tower at Port Aventura theme park in Spain. The ride was stopped after the rope broke, and park maintenance workers went up on an adjacent tower, got the rope clear of the gondola, then released the now-stuck gondola.

So far I have not seen any media coverage of this incident.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 11:15 AM
This is just crazy. At least they got it stopped quickly and no one got hurt. Cables shouldn't just break like this. I wonder if this was just a freak accident or if it is another case of poor maintenance. *** Edited 6/9/2008 3:16:28 PM UTC by Jason Hammond***
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Monday, June 9, 2008 12:32 PM
The cables ain't connected during the drop. They raise the vehicle to the top and then release it. the car free falls into magnetic brakes at the bottom.

<ADD> If people are wondering, this post was in response to another post that was deleted.</ADD> *** Edited 6/9/2008 10:54:33 PM UTC by Jason Hammond***

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Monday, June 9, 2008 1:29 PM
For some interesting insight on this, have a look at Kevin Russell's blog over on SaferParks. Kevin used to be a controls guy for Paramount Parks, for an aerial tramway manufacturer, and for Arrow Dynamics, plus he was a rec.roller-coaster participant back when he was still at Arrow. So not only does he know his stuff from a technical perspective, he's also got experience with the dealings between parks and manufacturers, yes, including Intamin.

Anyway, if we go back to the findings from the KDA report on the Kentucky Kingdom mishap, the major issue there was that the rope was lacking in lubrication, which was probably part of the reason it deteriorated quickly to the point of failure. What Kevin notes is that there was apparently a mechanical problem with the ride (rope slippage) that Intamin did not adequately address, which probably resulted in the maltreatment of the ride components which led to their ultimate failure.

It would be interesting to find out if Port Aventura was also having cable slippage problems and addressed them in a similar fashion...by removing the lubrication from the hoist ropes.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 1:35 PM
Yikes. That's the stand-up side; I can't imagine spending an hour on one of those. That's gotta hurt...

...better than a missing foot, though.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 3:18 PM
Yikes! Good call, Richard! I had completely failed to notice that!

Ouch!

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 3:25 PM
I read the blurb on RideAccidents, and I found this very interesting:

"The ride was shut down, but the rest of the cars were running with passengers just hours later."

You would think there would be a thorough investigation of the other cables... and if the issue is related to what Dave mentioned, you would think they would lubricate the cables before continuing operation. I wish there was a more in-depth news story regarding this...

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Monday, June 9, 2008 3:39 PM
Uh oh. Maybe we need to lobby to get the United Nations to oversee ride operation/maintenance for the world so that we can have effective information sharing. ;)
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Monday, June 9, 2008 4:32 PM
Rideman - Thanks for the plug.

I guess I didn't blog well. I wasn't trying to say SF was blameless. However, Intamin's contributions to the incident should have been recognized in the report.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 5:08 PM
So was the ride operator 18 or older?
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Monday, June 9, 2008 6:57 PM
This is shocking! Wouldn't the event last year prompt strict scrutiny of similar (specifically Intamin) drop rides? I'm glad to hear that it was without incident though.

Going back and reading the KDA report of the investigation from last year for the first time, something interesting stuck out...

"In accordance with KRS 247.990(3) (c), Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom will be assessed
an administrative fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000) for not maintaining the Superman
Tower of Power in good mechanical condition, causing a serious injury."

Really? That's all they are getting fined for? I understand the family is likely to sue, a rightly so, but a $1000 fine is all? Seems rather insignificant for the type and size of the accident. Heck, running a red light will cost you $200-$300.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 7:15 PM
A freak accident happening on an Intamin ride twice!!! That doesn't sound like the Intamin I know....

No, wait, I can't think of a serious to fatal accident that has happened on an Intamin ride that hasn't happened on a similar one within a year or so. hmmmmmmm

Knowing that Intamin's safety record is a hot topic at times, those that fight saying Intamin is a safe company one day will realize that patterns mean something...

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Monday, June 9, 2008 7:58 PM
Power&Control, I wouldn't say you didn't blog well. Clearly, at SFKK the ride was operating under conditions which were accelerating the deterioration of the hoist rope, and it seems reasonable to assume that if Six Flags were properly monitoring the condition of the hoist ropes, they should have noticed the condition of the rope in question on their ride and at least removed that ride section from service. Or perhaps they were convinced that the consequences of a rope failure would not be serious. I can remember another Intamin ride where the owner let the ride run "just one more day" allegedly knowing a catastrophic rope failure was imminent. They gambled and they lost, but in that case the consequences of the failure were predictable and relatively minor. I know that when I heard about the SFKK incident my shock wasn't that the hoist rope had failed, but that it had done such damage after the failure.

What you brought up, though, is something many of us have seen: Intamin's mechanical designs are *ahem* infallible, and if something goes wrong, it is clearly because of some other factor: the electronics are wrong, the maintenance is poor, the operator made a mistake, the rider was too fat, too skinny, or too...human. It is not the way of Intamin to ever admit a possible mistake, or a flaw in design. The comments about the slippage problem bring to light another circumstance, something other than Six Flags' possibly-inadequate maintenance program and their potentially inept ride operators. That Intamin is not helpful in solving an operational issue with their ride, combined with another park, presumably one that learned from the SFKK incident, having a similar incident, suggests that perhaps there is something more to be learned from all of this.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 8:49 PM
Rideman, maybe you should take over my blog.....
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Monday, June 9, 2008 9:30 PM
I don't know if Intamin is to blame or not. The reports clearly state that the KK accident could have been avoided had people been honestly visually inspecting the cables. Apparently the cables were so rusted and obviously strained that it was OBVIOUS the ride was in poor shape. HOWEVER, Intamin DOES scare me. Even though I ride their rides, somewhere in the back of my mind, there is a little voice going, "Is today the day?" Add that to Six Flags's extensive accident history, and I feel quite nervous about the combination.

Is Intamin really unwilling to help investigate things or to admit fault? I mean, typically these ride accidents are thoroughly investigated, and the INVESTIGATORS usually find that it was the fault of the rider, the operator, or the maintenance. Intamin does not make these claims, do they?

Glad to know that no one was hurt on the Spain Drop Tower.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 10:17 PM
Do we know if the E-stop button was pushed by the operator or did the computer sense the cable break and shut down automatically?
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Monday, June 9, 2008 10:18 PM
Actually (and Rideman can probably provide other examples) Intamin is usually in front of the cameras saying it's not their fault long before the investigation starts. One of the incidents Rideman made mention of in his previous post.

And if you read the KDA report, the state pretty much admits they don't have anyone qualified in materials science. I have dealt with a number of state authorities, and there are few of them that would be qualified to dive into the program of a PLC either.

Most of these guys are qualified to see that the machines are maintained properly, but not qualified to examine the engineering of the machines.

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Monday, June 9, 2008 10:31 PM
Bunky I think that where Intamin is to blame is pointed out pretty well by rideman. Sure a lot of the issues could have been avoided if maintenance had caught it, or if the ride operator had caught it, or if a guest of certain proportions wasn't on the ride. Humans are going to make errors that is reality. The area where Intamin needs to become liable is the fact that so many of these errors are allowed to happen on these rides. The manufacturer needs to be taking into account human error and designing rides to limit or eliminate the possibility of human error. Basically they should be making these rides idiot proof outside of extreme foul play.

I can't think of companies that come close to having as many accidents that the manufacturer will blame on these human errors as this company. Most other companies are adding devices to detect and prevent errors from becoming an issue.

I am willing to bet that the reason there was no accident here was result of what happened at SFKK. After the accident a year ago, many Intamin drop towers were fitted with a sensor to detect a snapped cable, and stop the ride if there is such an occurrence. This is a device that Six Flags came out last year saying the manufacturer should have had in place already. The device is one that makes the difference between a girl loosing her feet, and people being stuck on a ride for an hour. Had the ride been properly designed with this safety feature in the first place, there wouldn't be much of an issue.

As for the comment on Six Flags extensive accident history, I do not believe that there is substantial evidence that Six Flags as an operator has a higher accident history than others in the industry. I have heard people comment on this before, but I just haven't seen the evidence. I know people don't like the company and some of the decisions that they have made, but overall I think that they are on par in terms of accidents with the other players in the industry.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008 2:29 AM
You're right about the qualified personnel, Kevin. Of course that is why having government regulations (at least the ones suggested) would be totally pointless. The problem is though, those who would be best qualified either work for other manufacturers or parks. Either way its a conflict of interest.

The best bet is if the parks are more proactive, including hiring third party consultants if necessary.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008 5:04 AM
Wolfhound, good to hear from you.

I think what the regulators are trying to do right now is get something where they all can get some information on what has happened when there is an incident. The problem right now is, you get a report from the inspector, that may not be as in-depth as it should be, and all of the real information is in court filings that never see the light of day.

So they never know the rest of the story. And the good guys keep doing well, and the other guys keep muddling along.

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