Busch Gardens Tampa employee falls from Skyride

Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 9:12 AM | Contributed by PhantomTails

Maikon Bonani, 20, was working Saturday at the Skyride attraction at Busch Gardens Tampa. After sending passengers on a gondola out of the station, he thought the door might be unlocked and held onto the door to check it while guests sat on the ride, according to a park statement. He held on as the gondola took off - then 35 feet above the ground - let go and dropped into a landscaped area, the statement added.

Read more from The Associated Press.

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Monday, July 20, 2009 9:22 AM

Isn't there an easy procedure to stop the ride and then check to see if it is unlocked?

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Monday, July 20, 2009 11:39 AM

Rule #1 of operating a Sky Ride-type attraction. Don't grab onto a departing cab.

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Monday, July 20, 2009 12:42 PM

wahoo skipper said:
Rule #1 of operating a Sky Ride-type attraction. Don't grab onto a departing cab.

Rule #2. If you do grab on to a departing cab, don't let loose!

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Monday, July 20, 2009 1:08 PM

Even if the door remains unlatched, what are the chances that the passengers are going to fall out? Wouldn't they have to get up out of their seats to do that? Could a passenger just reach their hand over the side of the gondola and secure the latch themselves?

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Monday, July 20, 2009 1:16 PM

Yeah, it sounds like one of those act before you think type of things. In retrospect, not a good move. But I'm sure it happened pretty quick and like I said, he didn't think it through. We've all made moves in a split second that we wished we would have thought about differently first. I hope he's ok.

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Monday, July 20, 2009 1:52 PM

If it's like most of the rides I've been on, the latch is operated with a tool. But even then, it's not like the forces of the ride are going to push you out the door either.

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Monday, July 20, 2009 1:59 PM

This is where appropriate training enters the picture. After watching Apollo 13 again recently, I really see the value of running sims for workers. Not talking sophisticated, CG-type simulators that cost millions of dollars. Simply having the crew on the work site, simulating and reacting to a number of critical situations could prevent results like this.

"Quick! The gondola's slipped out of your reach and you're not sure if the door's locked -- what do you do?"

"Hit E-stop!"

I'm sure it wouldn't have to be too expensive or time-consuming to run something like this. The better-funded chains might want to think about it.

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Monday, July 20, 2009 2:08 PM

If it's a Von Roll, the cabin doors are locked with a square head key. Also, they don't stop on a dime. Quite a few feet of cable plays out after you hit the "E" stop and when it finally comes to a halt. We're the riders in imminate danger of falling out of the ride? Perhaps, if they leaned against the door, which with the square body tubs is not as likely as the cylindercal ones.

From the description in the article it sounds like the tub was all ready in the dispatch position when this occured, long after the door should have been locked.

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Monday, July 20, 2009 5:03 PM

He's a kicker. They're all weird.

What if the door wasn't locked and his grabbing onto the gondola did open it?

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Monday, July 20, 2009 5:23 PM

Well, that would be bad. :)

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Monday, July 20, 2009 7:43 PM

Some ride operators are in constant fear of messing up, because of the content in their training. In the split second that he had to react, he may have felt that if the gondola went out unlocked, he would get in serious trouble, even lose his job.

At least he's still alive after a 35 foot fall.

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Monday, July 20, 2009 11:28 PM

LK does make a valid point... from personal experience, and from what I've heard from others, many parks are extremely quick to fire employees if they sense that a safety violation has been made, even if it was a complete accident.

At a park that shall remain nameless, employees on the roller coasters and water rides are trained to hit the ride stop button if they realize that they sent out a train/boat with more riders in a row than permitted. Problem? If you stopped the train/boat on the lift as the training requires, you will be fired on the spot for allowing too many people to get in the seat to begin with. As a result, some employees simply let the ride continue, knowing that the chances of them getting "found out" are extremely minimal, whereas they will be guaranteed to lose their jobs if they follow safety precautions and stop the ride. (Supervisors are needed to sort out the situation and restart the ride.) On a ride like the splash boats, guests are actually being put in more danger by having to step out of the boat on the lift and change seats in the event of an overload... aside from being uncomfortable, there's no danger in being squished together on such a gentle ride, whereas there's always a risk of slipping and falling when getting out of the boat on an incline.

While there's no indication that this was the circumstance under which the employee fell 35 feet, LK is making a great observation that parks' zero tolerance rules regarding safety actually make parks less safe, as employees may put themselves or guests in danger in order to avoid getting fired for what might have begun as a small slip-up.

Last edited by PhantomTails, Monday, July 20, 2009 11:31 PM
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009 12:51 AM

Nicely explained, and great example, Tails. Thanks. It's not everyday that I make a valid point on CoasterBuzz. lol

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009 6:37 PM

The things that I don't get about this...

1. Is there any way for the operator to tell without inserting the key that the door is or is not locked?

2. If the door is not locked, it is at least latched. The doors on the Von Roll cars will slam-latch, and once latched will not normally unlatch without inserting the key and opening the latch.

Given #2, and the inability to visually check (see #1), I would think that so long as the door is *closed* the riders would be in no immediate danger. In fact, if the door were hanging wide open the riders would be in no immediate danger, but that is a different scenario altogether.

I think one of the problems here is that there is the "right" way to do something and the "safe" way to do something. In this particular case, the safest course of action was really for the operator to do *nothing*...or better still, to note the car number, send it out, and have the (mostly bored) attendant at the center station double check the door.

3. The Von Roll tramways use a ramp system where cars are held back, then released *automatically, without warning* to roll down the ramp and clamp to the moving cable. I have seen operators walk in front of cars in the dispatch position, I have seen operators grab onto cars in the dispatch position, and now an operator has been injured by fiddling with a car in the dispatch position. Go back and look at what Wahoo Skipper said in the second post in this thread. Once the car is sitting in that dispatch position, it should be considered "gone" or "hot" or whatever term you want to use for "dangerous to all personnel".

4. I thought that at BGT the skyride stations were all at ground level. Didn't the operator have time to let go before the car got 30' in the air?

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009 7:08 PM

The station in the Crown Territory if I remember right is a two story structure.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009 11:30 AM

That's correct.

Also, doesn't it travel over the lion and rhino enclosures? Where exactly did he determine was a good place to drop?

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Thursday, July 23, 2009 11:33 AM

Your memory is probably better than mine, as I haven't been to BGT in about a dozen years...

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009 5:46 PM

I was just thinking if you live in tampa go by the park and put up signs that read "watch for falling employees"

Too Soon ?

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009 4:10 AM

What I don't get too is why people would be so afraid to lose their job operating a ride that they would let safety go to the wayside. One, if they do notice a safety problem and can hit the E-stop, why would they hesitate to hit the E-stop and possibly save someone's life? A perfect example is that Kaitlyn Lassiter girl. The attendant heard screaming that sounded out of the ordinary, she heard some other kind of noise, but instead of hitting the e-stop immediately, she called someone first to ask what she should do. As a result, Kaitlyn had her feet severed and may have been decapitated by the ride cable had she not managed to get the cable off from around her neck. I'm NOT blaming the ride op necessarily because everyone panics sometimes in atypical situations. I'm just saying that hesitating to do something about an unsafe situation because you're worried your job might be at stake is not a good enough reason to NOT hit the E-stop or do whatever you might need to do to stop a potential tragedy. Plus, if you noticed something unusual about a ride and DIDN'T hit the E-stop or intervene in some way and something happened, wouldn't you lose your job ANYWAY? Finally, what do ride operators make per hour? I'm guessing it's not a lot (although considering they are making decisions and judgment calls on potentially hazardous situations, not to mention working in dangerous conditions with all the heat and dehydration risks, plus body fluids from vomit and urine and blood, I think they should make more money than they likely DO). Say (and this is just a hypothetical and a ride op could make more money than I do as a nurse) that an op makes 8 bucks an hour. Up until recently, there were lots of jobs out there that could make you 8 bucks an hour easily. Why worry so much about THAT job that you would rather sweep unsafe practices under the rug or call up someone else to make the decision for you so you don't get fired? In these economic times, I can see where a job is of much more desperate concern, but in days past, the jobs were out there. And is there ever a time when a job should come before saving a life or being concerned about the safety of other individuals?

It's late and I think I'm ranting. Sorry. Gnite.

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