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