Court orders Kennywood not to tamper Whip building remains pending investigation

Posted Thursday, August 22, 2002 4:57 AM | Contributed by PhantomTails

Kennywood has agreed not to alter the site where a woman was killed during a violent May storm until attorneys for the woman's family complete an investigation. The 29-year-old woman was crushed when high winds dislodged the roof of a pavilion on a ride at Kennywood Park. The order follows a notice by lawyers for the family of Stephanie Wilkerson that they will file a lawsuit against the West Mifflin amusement park.

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Friday, August 23, 2002 4:35 AM
I agree 100%, if this accident had occurd during a Tornadoa or Earthquake, something that has already caused so much destruction, they wouldn't take the time to investigate.

This is just some horrible luck for Kennywood. During a rainstorm, parks always try to keep as many rides open as possible. Who would have thought the Whip would even be at risk? *** This post was edited by RubberDucky on 8/23/2002. ***

Friday, August 23, 2002 6:47 AM

Jeff stated:

I'm no engineer, but I'm going to guess the cause was the same thing that took down trees and such. Really... what is there to investigate?

I could see your point if all structures in the area of the whip collapsed. But other than trees, what else collapsed at the park? So then, it could be possible, hence the investigation, that there could have been something "wrong" with the structure.

Le roi est mort. Vive le roi.
Thanks Great America!

Friday, August 23, 2002 7:00 AM
redman822: I see your point that it could look suspicious that the Whip building and some trees were the only things to collapse/get knocked down at the park. However, tornadoes, for one, can travel and destroy a very narrow pathway. A tornado can reasonably flatten one house while the neighboring ones remain standing and lightly damaged. Granted, not near where I live where the houses are built one right on frickin top of each other, but such result at Kennywood, as is my point, could have reasonably been cause by a twister. I don't know much about microbursts, but they probably act similarly to tornadoes. Nothing a little Internet researching couldn't supply.
Additionally, a tornado could reasonably touch the ground in a small radius area, thus the Whip building and some trees are destroyed and not much else substantially. A small tornado could touch the ground in this type of way. Given more power, the twister could travel more. I watch the Discovery channel too much. *** This post was edited by coderGirl on 8/23/2002. ***
Friday, August 23, 2002 8:26 AM
Bad thing is, The System will work against Kennywood...They get the short end of thestick i'll bet...
Friday, August 23, 2002 10:58 AM

Even when there is no issue regards law suits etc., it is important to investigate structural failures to learn the causes. That's how engineers learn how to build things better to prevent future failures.

RubberDucky said that there would be no investigation if it had been an earthquake. Nothing could be farther from the truth. After all major earthquakes, there are major investigations to determine what failed and why. This enables us to design building to better resist future earthquakes. For example, in the Mexico City earth quake it was learned that buildings had been built too close together resulting in them collapsing because they hit each other as they swayed. In the last big quake in Japan it was learned that many of the buildings failed because the ground moved much more in the up and down direction than it had in previous Japanese quakes. California quakes have taught us the necessity to put structural girdles on concrete supports for overpasses to prevent failures.

Friday, August 23, 2002 2:58 PM
kpjb's avatar

it is normal to conduct a detailed investigation to determine the cause of the accident

Here's all the details: big storm, high winds.

If I operated the park and maintained my buildings properly, I would also want to preserve the evidence

I don't know where we could store such a thing... really if you want the structural data, you could just get the blueprints off of the architect or contractors.

I could see your point if all structures in the area of the whip collapsed. But other than trees, what else collapsed at the park?

That is the exact problem with people's thinking: it's not about what else happened "at the park", it's about what else happened, PERIOD. The path of destruction tore roofs and porches off of homes, demolished garages, and damaged many businesses besides the park. (Although, that isn't as exciting to report.)

If you look from above, there's a path of broken trees and damaged structures from the top of the hill through West Mifflin, down to the right of the parking lots, and right to the Whip.

I feel so bad for what happened to Stephanie, I can't imagine what her family must cope with. When it comes down to it, though, this isn't an issue of park safety, it's an issue of violent weather.

"When I was growing up, we were taught something called manners. You'd understand that if you weren't such an idiot." - Jack Handey

Friday, August 23, 2002 6:34 PM


It's obvious that you know nothing about forensic engineering. (the science of studying why things fail) Big storm, high winds is not all the details.

Where do you store the debris? Any empty lot or a spare corner of the parking lot. This is a fairly small pavilion, not the World Trade Center. By the way, the WTC was examined piece by piece to determine exactly what resulted in the collapse which was different for the 2 towers.

Obviously, there was wide spread damage.

Just a few of the questions to be answered. What was the mode of failure? IE was the building lifted by the wind, pushed over, or twisted? What was the point at which something first broke? Was the building adequately designed? Was it built as designed? Note that structural failures often occur because of changes made during construciton.

Friday, August 23, 2002 9:09 PM
This incident will most likely be settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. I feel horrible for the families involved, but I personally feel that there was nothing Kennywood could do. Evacuating the park would have actually been worse given the suddenness of the storm. Imagine 5-10,000 people all heading for the parking lots at once while that storm hit. There probably would be a lot more fatalities than what happened. It is tragic, but most likely, unpreventable. A reasonable settlement would be to pay for all medical treatment and lost wages to those injured, and some reasonble undisclosed settlement to the family of the woman who died that would be fair to everyone.
Saturday, August 24, 2002 6:22 AM
Jim: or even modifications *after* construction. You are spot on in pointing out that kpjb cannot be familar with "accident reconstruction". I'm fascinated with it personally. If the FAA/NTSB can put back together the pieces of the wreckage of TWA #800 in an ordinary aircraft hanger (mind you all the pieces fell into the water), how hard would it really be to store a building housing an amusment ride? And personally, I think that such an investigation NEEDS to happen before a decsion is made to sue/not sue. It's best to have all the facts in front of you first.

"To get inside this head of mine, would take a monkey-wrench, and a lot of wine" Res How I Do

Saturday, August 24, 2002 1:04 PM
kpjb's avatar

Jim: you are obviously missing the main point of my post (and being quite snippy, too, may I add.)

My point is this: The lady across the street who lost her roof... who's she going to sue? The people who had their garage demolished and spread all over Rt. 837... who are they going to sue?

Yes, Stephanie lost her life, and yes, that makes this more serious than loss of property, but the underlying fact remains that this was not an Amusement Park related phenomena, it was one of mother nature.

"When I was growing up, we were taught something called manners. You'd understand that if you weren't such an idiot." - Jack Handey

Saturday, August 24, 2002 5:26 PM
If I recall properly, It was determined by both the authorities and KW's insurance company that the Whip pavillion was lifted off it's foundation by the macroburst and subsequently dropped as it moved on. The remains of the building were then removed after all agencies had signed off off on the investigation. That would have been the only way the remains could have been legally removed from the scene. Like what has been pointed out, it's buried in a landfill, and all that is left is the foundation and may be the foundation bolts.

What this action is refered to is the litiagation lottery. The plaintiffs and their attorney are going to try to find somebody they can claim is responsible to obtain restitution. They can't get it from nature so it's somebody elses fault. They had ample opportunity to halt the removal of the remains. They will more than likely claim that somebody was trying to hide something,hoping for a big payoff from not only the park's underwriters, but also the boro of West Mifflin, who signed off on the building. *** This post was edited by Dutchman on 8/25/2002. ***


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