Intamin restraints called into question after recent accident

Posted Tuesday, May 4, 2004 8:06 AM | Contributed by Jeff

The death of a Bloomfield man Saturday at the Six Flags New England amusement park was at least the fifth time since 1999 that a rider has fallen from a ride made by Intamin AG, the manufacturer of Six Flags' Superman Ride of Steel roller coaster. Massachusetts officials call for any rides with restraints similar to the Intamin T-bar to be closed while the state investigates.

Read more from The Hartford Courant.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2004 8:12 AM
I know that a number of parks are looking very hard at their restraint systems on Intamin rides.

I know a lot of people have given Kathy Fackler a lot of crap, but what she says I think is right on. The industry does have a pretty good safety record and there should be some level of personal responsibility.

I don't entirely agree with Kernacs though. If their restraint was perfectly fine, I'm not sure it would have been refined as much as it has, pretty much on a yearly basis. I admit that I don't understand how any of these victims, especially the girl on Hydro, got around the bar and the seatbelt, but the seat/bar design on Dragster is significantly more confining than, say Superman at SFDL.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 8:22 AM
5th time? SFDL, KBF, Oakwood, SFNE....?
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 8:26 AM
I am of the opinion that Intamin has not properly designed these restraint devices. I do believe that unless something is done to all Intamin mega/hyper/giga/strata rides regarding their seat restraints, by the end of the summer, another person will have been ejected from an Intamin ride.Call it a stupid guess, but with even more of these rides around, it only seems natural that the incidents will increase as well.*** This post was edited by Zero-G 5/4/2004 8:28:07 AM ***
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 8:44 AM
I don't think it is the restraint system. Think about it, how many people ride all 3 Superman coasters a year. Millions!!! MILLIONS! And how many people have been thrown out? A few. Its gotta be rider error.

I hope they don't redesign the lapbars on Superman, I happen to think they are awesome and one of the best type of restraints out there. There has to be a way to possible make them safer.

If Mass. is telling all rides with T-Bar system to close down I have to now think that the train came back with his seat belt buckled and lapbar locked. It be different if it came back with seat belt unbuckled. Maybe a bolt broke off. Anyone near DL or SFA see if they are looking over the other Superman Coasters?

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 9:22 AM
I do think there's one thing that's a problem with some restraints. It's not that I don't think they aren't safe, they're very safe and I feel 100% safe when I'm riding roller coasters (honestly). But I think some restraints doesn't prevent rider errors, deliberatly or not. Like with seatbelts, I don't really like that the rider can unbuckle himself during the the course of the ride. The seatbelt is a backup and why has the rider the option to not have a backup for his lapbar or whatever the kind of restraint it is.
Or how rider somehow can get oneself into an unsafe seating position as in standing or trying to turn around as was the case of the girl on Hydro from what I hear. Maybe something like what Premier has on their lapbars, a bar for the legs so they're in the right position as that's very important.
I don't demand any big changes but rather some small ones that would improve the design of the restraints without killing the experience of the rider (ie Perilous Plunge)
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 9:26 AM
Crashmando,DL hasn't opened for the season yet, they open on Saturday. SFA is only open weekends. The only thing I have head about SFA's Superman is it's closed until further notice and that is from the SFI spokesperson.I don't think they are necessarily looking to fault the ride restraints, but are taking a closer look at it to make sure it is safe. This is what a good investigation does. They look at all aspects of what happened and what might have gone wrong.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprise if they don't have a 5'2" 225 lb model, actor or stunt performer out there to get an idea as to how the T-Bar would come down on someone that size. I'm sure an autopsy will be performed to determine if the guy suffered a seizure or asthma attack while on the ride. I don't know about New England but the pollen count in Maryland was running between 1000 and 2000 on Saturday.
*** This post was edited by coasterguts 5/4/2004 9:31:12 AM ***

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 9:29 AM
Just because millions ride without it failing doesnt mean it isnt the problem. Think of it like a computer bug, just because it works on most machines doesn't mean it went away.

My question to all this is I wonder if Intamin has ever thought about making their seatbelts like the Disney belts on rides like Star Tours and Tower of Terror where they cannot be unlocked until the ride stops? I know most of the speculation is centering around the T-bars, but if you make the redundant system impossible to humanly fool (without sitting on top of the seat belt) it would seem that you would have a better failsafe measure.

One last thing, the restraints in question are hydrolic restraints, correct?

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 9:30 AM
I don't think you have to be an engineer to see the correlation between all of these accidents. Someone asked what an acceptable number of deaths is. If I am a family member of one of the victims I would say that 0 is an acceptable number.
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 9:41 AM
I'm not saying anyone should die. I think what happen is horrible. I'm just trying to say that the restraints weren't the problem and I'm blaming rider error. And to do that I said look at how many people ride that coaster. I feel safer on a coaster then in my car.
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 9:55 AM
Crashmando: that's nice, but you're making it up. You have NO WAY of knowing whether the restraints are at fault or not. From where I sit, these restraints at least deserve incredibly careful scrutiny. I don't have access to the numbers, and so can't say for sure, but the anecdotal evidence seems to suggest the conclusion that these restraints have a much higher rate of "failure" than almost anything else out there.

Note that I'm defining "failure" as "did not prevent the rider from leaving the car", not "the restraint mechanically failed."

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 10:02 AM
It'll be interesting to see if MF and TTD will be open this Saturday at CP. I'm hoping they will, since the restraints are different, and the Massachusetts order woudn't affect CP. Someone from Denmark will be in our group who really wants to ride those coasters, and she is only here for a short time before going back home.

When I was a Darien Lake, which I beleive has the same model trains as in Massachusetts, I could see how a person with shorter legs could get their knees lower then their thighs. At that point it would be possible to get around the restraint. This is apparent in the back seat of the car, I didn't ride in the front, so I don't know if it is any different.

I'm surprised the trains haven't been modified to prevent this. I think Kings Island had a similar problem with the SOB trains. No one fell out, but the park raised the floor to keep rider's knees up, from what I have heard.

What is really puzzling is that reports said the rider fell out on a turn. Intamin coasters have no lateral Gs. The turns press you down into the seat, you don't need a restraint at that point to keep you in the train.

Like I said, I hope MF and TTD are operating, since the trains are different from Superman. Even so, until this is all sorted out, I think I'll be holding on to the grap handles while riding.*** This post was edited by Pete 5/4/2004 10:18:24 AM ***

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 10:05 AM
I'm going to flirt dangerously close to speculation here...

Look at the lowest common denominator. Four ejections from intamin rides in the past few years... three of which resulted in deaths. Two on Perilous Plunge type of rides, two on Superman hypers. All using similar restraints I believe.

Even if it was Rider Error in this last case (though nothing, other than speculation from some quarters of the Enthusiast community, really points that direction at this time), what degree of "Rider Error" are we talking about? If I recall the "instructions" on the trains of S:RoS at Darien Lake and Six Flags America, the proper riding positoin is "feet on the floor board, hands on the hand holds on the back of the seat in front of you (or was it the T-Bar?)". We all know that people do not ride this way. The restraint should be designed to restrain a rider who is not riding in the exactly correct position.

You can't protect against riders who actively try to get out of a restraint or who insist on standing up or what ever (both cases can be considered "rider error" as well as stupidity), but they should effectively hold a rider who is not sitting quite right... a rider who is slouching, or not holding on to the grab handles, or does not have his feet securely on the floorboards ("rider error" yes, but more carelessness or "unknowing", than out right negligence).

If you use weight or body size as an issue, then the restraint's should be designed not to let the rider fit. If a coaster restraint locks and the belt buckles, then it is safe to assume that the rider fit and it is safe to procede. If the restrain can close but still not be properly secured, then some sort of warning should be present.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 10:11 AM
The only comment that I would like to add is, I've have been on S:ROS many many times. There has not been one ride that I have not felt secure with the seat belt and the T-bar lap restraint in place. Any further speculation and comments, I feel, are very premature and unwarrented until the investigation comes out. It is very sad that this happened, especially, to someone who loved and shared our great hobby of riding roller coasters.
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 10:12 AM
Not pointing fingers anywhere or supporting anyone but just want to throw this into the mix. If I remember correctly a rider fell out of an Intamin drop ride which uses OTSR, not a T-bar. They were handicapped. It was never determined how the person came out. Also in this most recent case the mother of the victim said he had cerebral palsey and couldn't understand how he could have even ridden in his condition. I think the whole issue needs to be very carefully examined before any fingers are pointed anywhere.
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 10:20 AM
Actually, MF does have the same restraint type as S:RoS. It would be incredibly foolish of CP to open MF with the park this weekend.
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 10:21 AM
What I guess I find funny is this...

Many "Enthusiasts" don't seem to be able to step back and take an objective look at the situation. At this point no one knows what has happened: It could have been rider error. It could have been mechanical failure. It could have been a design flaw.

Some seem to be so enamored by these wooden and metal monstrosities that we all enjoy riding so much that they don't seem to be able to address fact the fact that it could have been something to do with the coaster. To them it has to have been be rider error.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 10:52 AM
SLFAKE, that's what I was trying to say except you made it sound much better than in my post.
Many people blame on riders errors and anatomy and that's true with most of the cases but why stop there with blaming on the victim? Why not try to prevent riders to make foolish actions and such in the future?
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 11:08 AM
SFNE Freak, do you know for certain that Millennium Force has the same restraint type as S:ROS? It has the same type of lap bars, but is the restraint system the same? I suggest that we don't know for certain whether it is or not.

Remember, the rider restraint is a complete system which includes the lap bar, the seat, the seat belt, and the car. At Cedar Point, the rigid restraint bars on Millennium Force, Wicked Twister, and Top Thrill Dragster are all identical, using the exact same locking mechanism...but the restraints on those three rides are very different from each other.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004 11:26 AM
All you guys telling people to wait and not speculate are spinning your wheels in the mud. We will most likely NEVER know what happened. Everybody will speculate. Obviously there was a terrible tragedy. We've got 2 thoughts right now. Some design or mechanical failure with the restraints, and rider error/possible disability related cause. My guess is that there is little of both in play here, but that is just more speculation which I thought we were not allowed to do!? Everybody will speculate. This is human nature. Add to this the fact that you can no longer trust news sources to give objective information and you certainly cannot buy the spin from the park/ride manufacture/parent/etc, and what do you expect to happen? Who should we trust? We’ll all make our own decisions and use the evidence to support our side.

Exactly what are we waiting for before we are allowed to comment or speculate on this tragedy? The Perilous Plunge investigation is long over and the ride has been retrofitted and back in action. Anybody satisfied that we got to the bottom of the cause of that one? Intamin has its story that KBF was at fault and KBF blames Intamin. We've got the rider girth versus the restraint design argument in that case AND nothing is solved in anybody's mind. Expect the same thing to happen in the present case. From this point on it will all be speculation and spin with some objective data thrown in there from the investigation that will then be used to spin some more.

Nobody will ever be able to determine with 100% accuracy what really happened on that train unless there was a complete mechanical failure. Think about it. If the man slipped out, there are multiple reasons this could be so. A full proof determination cannot and will not be made. The best we can do is look at the rides overall safety record and determine if it is appropriate. Better minds than I make that decision.

I hope some good will come out of this, though I have little faith it will. We could possibly get redesign that is safer for the restraints and maybe a less stringent interpretation of the appropriateness of ADA as it relates to safety for ridership. The first one is plausible, the second is less likely. I see no way the park or government investigation agencies will ever touch ADA with a 10 foot pole. As we become more and more integrated as a society and the disabled become more and more functional through medical advancements, I do foresee this becoming a hot topic for the park industry. They've got a nightmare on their hands when it comes to liability and determining who should and should not ride based upon safety issues.

P.S. Is there any chance that "little people" could have a valid complaint under ADA that they are discriminated against by the amusement park industry as a whole?*** This post was edited by Jeffrey R Smith 5/4/2004 11:30:18 AM ***
*** This post was edited by Jeffrey R Smith 5/4/2004 11:31:52 AM ***


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