Girl who lost feet on Kentucky Kingdom ride takes first steps

Posted Thursday, December 6, 2007 9:03 AM | Contributed by cpubradley

A teenager whose feet were severed on an amusement park ride at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom has taken her first steps since the gruesome accident in June, the attorney for the girl's family said. Kaitlyn Lasitter, 14, began walking last week with the help of a prosthetic leg and crutches, attorney Larry Franklin said.

Read more from AP via MSNBC.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007 12:11 PM
Finally...some good news out of a tragic situation.
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Thursday, December 6, 2007 1:02 PM
I feel bad for her. I hope her body accepts her foot back and doesn't reject it.

I had also read that her family is suing Six Flags for maintenance negligence. I hope, in turn, that Six Flags sues Intamin for their faulty design. Intamin has had too many accidents in recent years (and I know some of them have been due to overly large people not fitting their seats right and such), but this one, to me, is a fairly clear design flaw because of the exposed cables.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007 1:05 PM
^I'd agree that it's a design flaw due to the exposed cables but it's also a maintenance issue on the part of the park IMHO. SFKK simply wasn't given the budget needed to do the extensive maintenance needed to ensure the ride's safe operation.
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Thursday, December 6, 2007 1:32 PM
Re: rablat5, I don't know how you could make this particular ride system without exposed cables in one way or another and make it cost effective. It's too bad that this could somehow happen, but I don't think that in anyone's wildest dreams what happened at SFKK could happen. The circumstances had to be exactly right for the tragedy to happen. As much as I have stated and still believe that Intamin doesn't think through their designs enough, I don't think that what happened in SFKK happened due to faulty design on Intamin's part.

Re: Batwing Fan SFA, I don't know how you can state such a thing, as the only evidence that we have of an issue is the cable snap. Top Thrill Dragster has had multiple cable snaps since it opened, but I don't blame CP for not giving the ride the "extensive maintenance needed to ensure the ride's safe operation." In both cases, you have something that failed probably ultimately due to a very minor manufacturing issue.

Intamin built a redundant system in those rides so that even if one cable snaps, there is at least one more (two on all the ones other than the SFKK model) which can still fully support the weight of the car. No one could tell that there was an issue with the manufacturing process.

It's a crappy situation all around, and while I agree that the girl should get something pretty major for it all, unless it is shown otherwise the only group that I can see any fault in is the cable manufacturer, and then quite frankly I don't know what I feel like they should be liable for. It is impossible for even the best company to catch every single manufacturing error.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007 2:28 PM
I fail to see any design flaw, if it was a design flaw we would have numerous reports of people being hurt in this manner.
It is either a maintence issue, or simply just a accident, as they do happen and cant be outlawed by legislation or lawuuits.
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Thursday, December 6, 2007 3:34 PM
But even if a lack of maintenance is was resulted in the cable snapping, a design flaw is what allowed the cable to swing around and take her feet off.

Its good to hear that shes back up and moving though, she's got a long road ahead of her, but being should help with re-learning how to walk and balance.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007 4:00 PM
I don't see a design flaw either. A member here who has inspected a similar ride indicated they check those cables every day, and that there are sensors in places that should detect any fraying or breaks. He theorized that didn't happen. Obviously he can't know, but I don't think that this is one you can in on Intamin.
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Thursday, December 6, 2007 4:12 PM
One could argue there is a design flaw because it was possible for the cable to come out of the tower and injure a rider. Just because it's only happened once doesn't mean there was no design flaw. It just means a certain set of circumstances were present which showed the design flaw.

There's nothing to say (as of yet) that this set of circumstances could be duplicated on any of their other towers. We just don't know that yet because the investigation is not complete. They may not even know how it happened.

But, to say there's definitely no design flaw is just as short sighted as saying the ride was doomed to injure someone from the beginning.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007 4:30 PM
Cables are difficult to inspect. I wonder just how long CP's MF cable is, Which has snapped at least twice. Luckily it's under the riders but still anything could happen.

Not to take away from the Hellevator thing but really I see no design flaw, possibly not enough safety precautions like a guide for the cable to run in or something but It will be interesting to see if the findings are ever released. Bet the cable just snapped myself and unfortunately it is a maintainece issue IMHO but may have been unpreventable.

Chuck

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Thursday, December 6, 2007 5:19 PM
Very glad to hear she's recovering so well.

She's lucky to have had one of her feet reattached, though it doesn't negate the idea that the maiming should never had occured in the first place.

Hope she makes a full recovery (given the circumstances).

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Thursday, December 6, 2007 10:31 PM
Just seems to me that all cables under stress (like MF's lift for instance) could have some sort of housing. Not sure how feasible that is in the actual application.

On to the topic of Kaitlyn, ALL the best to her and her family. She was indeed fortunate to have had access to the very best care available.

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Friday, December 7, 2007 12:19 AM
What do you mean "come out of the tower?" They are out of the tower, they run down the outside of it. S&S towers use cables on the outside. Intamin elevator lifts have them going right down the middle of the track. Ski lifts have cables spanning hundreds of feet between towers. Somehow, in all of these situations, they manage to not break.
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Friday, December 7, 2007 10:33 AM
Jeff, it isn't in all of those situations the cables don't break. While I can't think of any chair lift cables breaking, there are other documented cable breaks on Millenium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, and lots of other applications that use cables in their operation.

As for Intamin somehow housing the cable -- look at how the ride actually operates, and try to figure out a way that this could be done. The cables must run up the outside of the ride to lift the cars into position. How else could this be accomplished? I suppose that they could also use LIMs to push the cars to the top of the others, but that would be stupid expensive. I also suppose they could use a chain lift which would drop back into the tower like a boomerang, but chains can snap too and it seems like a very complex system for a ride which, as built, would be difficult to maintain anything mechanical on the outside.

As much as Intamin has some design issues with their restraints, this part of the ride isn't a design flaw.

From what I understand, the whole theory behind the operation of the ride was that the ride would pull them up with the multiple cables, and if one snapped it should fall down harmlessly beside the ride while the ride cycle completed, at which point the ride would stop running due to a cable break.

Things had to work out exactly perfectly for this accident to occur. The cable had to snap and then somehow work it's way into position so that on the drop what happened would happen. It couldn't have been the tension of the cable swinging around because the cable is never exposed under the riders, and the cable snapping and falling off the pull wagon wouldn't have come back that hard. I believe both Six Flags and the state inspectors when they still maintain that they have no idea what happened. The visual data from the ride gave us all no clues too, other then there was a cable that snapped.

And as for checking the cables, a visual inspection of the cables every day may not be enough to show that the cable is going to snap. There was nothing the ride operators could have done to stop it.

I can't find one thing that anyone did that was wrong, except that a cable may have had a manufacturing defect, which like I said -- that happens in any production facility. It is a huge crummy situation for all involved, and it's too bad that it happened.

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Friday, December 7, 2007 10:56 AM
Ski lifts and gondola rides have fray sensors which stop the ride whenever there is problem with the cable. If those cables were to snap, there would certainly be injury and death - no question.

With rides like the drop towers, MF and TTD, if the cable snaps, there is not guaranteed death and injury. So, I'm assuming that the parks take the risk to avoid having to prematurely replace the cables (because they cost money). Again, that's a big assumption on my part. But, if the park is short on funds and they don't think it will injure anyone, I can see it happening.

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Friday, December 7, 2007 1:53 PM
Well, I find it so hard to believe a little girl has gone through all of this without understanding what is happening to her. This is such positive news, when coming from a horrific experience on an almost fatal day.
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Friday, December 7, 2007 3:24 PM
There IS a design flaw because this happened. When you design something to be safe, you need to come at it from every possible angle that you can think of. Even if you missed this angle when designing, the fact that it happened reveals that the design is still flawed, at least in terms of safety. How can anyone argue this?

Containing the cables maybe not be easy or the most "cost-effective", but I believe that people's lives and well-being are more important than the cost-effectiveness of a thrill ride design.

What I think may have happened--and this is the best that I know of, since the cables most probably didn't "slice" through her leg by reflex--is that one of the cables broke in the middle somewhere. The upper portion of the cable was not an issue, since it was just pulled up into the tower. The lower portion, however, fell down and would have been hanging from the catch-car. When the ride vehicle was dropped from the top of the tower, the cable was hanging from the catch-car and extended below the position of the ride vehicle. As the ride vehicle fell, it passed the "end" of the broken cable on its way back down. If the end of the cable was somehow looped, the girl's feet could have snagged it as she fell with the ride vehicle. The weight of the vehicle, combined with the force of the fall, would have been enough to sever her feet.

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Friday, December 7, 2007 4:03 PM
@halltd -- The difference between a ski lift and a coaster or drop ride is that a ski lift has the same, continual pressure exerted on it. This means that a failure of a cable with a manufacturing should take a longer period of time, allowing a sensor to catch it in almost all instances, than in a setting where the cable is under different amounts of stress. A ride on TTD or an Intamin Giant drop puts different stresses on the cables at different times. Because of this, sudden failure is much more likely.

As a for instance, if you took a peice of string and tied it to a rock, you could probably pull the rock at a steady motion without the string breaking, but if you took that same rock and pulled it really fast, waited until it stopped and did the same thing, the likelihood that your string would break goes up significantly.

Amusement park rides are made so that they have cables which are rated far higher than they need to be for the applications that they do (thus why the drop rides other than the KK one have three cables, each of which could support the full weight of the car) but a manufacturing defect could cause one of these to break when under pressure, which is what I assume happened in this case. I don't think it is necessarily an issue of replacing them on a regular schedule, but I'm sure we'll find that out with this lawsuit if that was the case or not.

@rablat5 -- Why wasn't it a design flaw? Because no one can design something to work in every possible situation, even if they had come at it from every angle. Manufacturers and even amusement park operators have to take into account everything when creating a ride, but they have to balance it.

With a catastrophic failure on a coaster, you could have the wheels come off the track and have that lead to a fatal accident (see: Mindbender). There was *no* way that the Mindbender could have been designed so that in every possible scenario it coming off the track would not happen, unless there was no ride at all. You can't design perfection.

Think about a cable system and how it works. You can't contain the cables any better than what Intamin did if you expect the ride to work. When the ride is being lifted, the exposed cable is outside the ride and must be exposed and attached to the pull car to pull the ride up the lift. The rest of the cable is pulled into the tower, because the ride doesn't need it outside. There is a redundant cable or cables depending on the model which are attached to the pull car to ensure that even in the case of a cable snap, the ride with the pull car doesn't come crashing back to earth.

What you suggested happening is the only thing that I can figure out that could have happened, I think that if you tried to recreate it by running the ride with a broken cable and dummies in the seats that it would take an extremely long time to get it to happen again, if you could at all. You can't design around a circumstance like that.

Now the harnesses on the drop rides is another story...

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Saturday, December 8, 2007 12:12 AM
I think the worst part about this whole story is the one no one has addressed yet--the medical bills. It said the hospital is waiting for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees until after the lawsuit is taken to court.

This is America after all, and you don't even have to watch Michael Moore's "Sicko" (if you don't like the director) to get a appreciation for how screwed her family could be. Who knows how good her families medical insurance was, or if they even had medical insurance.

To file a lawsuit, first you'll need a lawyer who specializes in amusement park rides. That costs hundreds of dollars an hour. You can bet that Six Flags Inc. will bring their top lawyers to prove that they did nothing wrong. The case could potentially drag on for sometime. There will also be multiple witnesses and experts I would imagine on both sides.

There will also probably be a Grand Jury who will visit the warehouse (or wherever) the ride will be stored and will given a chance to examine it. Then, the case will be presented to a regular jury. This is my interpretation and it may go down with just a regular jury.

I remember Jeff saying that this a "slam-dunk" case (when it first happened) or is it? The key will be getting the "right" people on the jury--in my opinion those who are highly emotional and sympathetic--what I would call "The Oprah" viewer.

After being a alternate-juror a couple of years ago though, this is a long process and either side can reject potential jurors for any reason. The judge can also dismiss a large pool of candidates. The defense will be looking for the more mechanical and rational person--I'm thinking a regular "History Channel" watcher like my Dad who would understand that not everything always works as it should.

All it takes is one person who doesn't agree that there was any negligence and the case is deadlocked.

Ultimately in the end, history cannot be changed, and I hope the family is able to meet both her medical, mental, and financial needs for the years to come. As I started at the top of this whole long-winded reply, there's a hospital who wants to get paid for the work they did.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007 9:29 PM

There IS a design flaw because this happened.

How does that make sense at all? Is there a design flaw in all Tauruses because some guy underinflated his tires and wrecked it? No, and there isn't a design flaw in this ride because one cable snapped on one section of one ride in one park. PPM. Nothing more.

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