Investigation says lap bar was not checked in 2004 Hydro death at Oakwood

Posted Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:19 AM | Contributed by Jeff

No-one checked to ensure a teenager was securely strapped into a water ride minutes before she plunged 120ft to her death, an inquest has heard. Hayley Williams was with family and friends when she fell from Oakwood's Hydro ride while on holiday in Pembrokeshire in April 2004.

Read more from the BBC.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:25 AM
Every time this story comes back to light it makes me sad, because it seems so needless. I still think the design of the seats and restraints were flawed, but the alleged neglect of the operators is even more unfortunate.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:41 AM
Has Intamin addressed these evident problems?
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:03 AM
I can't say this surprises me one bit. Even though the design of the lapbar restraint is probably not a good one there is no way for someone that small to come out of a restraint like that unless properly restrained.

What frustrates me is that we already had an incident with Perilous Plunge, you'd think that another park with a simliar ride would take some precautions to make sure that everyone that leaves that station is secured.

How to fix this? Even though I think Intamin has fixed the restraint issue with KingDa Ka I guess they would design the rides in a way that the human body will only experience positive G forces on rides.

This is really a terrible and unnecessary accident.

~Rob Willi

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:57 AM
I disagree Rob. From the pictures people have linked to, the lack of sides to the seats makes it very possible to get out from under the lap bar. Let's face it, if the lap bar and seat found on Dragster, with the deep seat and bent lap bar that puts your knees higher than your ass, were the standard on all of the Intamin rides, it would be perfectly safe.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 11:45 AM
I think it's obvious that the restraints contributed to this unfortunate incident given the fact that four people have been thrown from a similar restraint system. In many of these cases, the parks have been at least partially blamed for not properly checking restraints. If it's really that common for restraints to not get checked properly, why is it only Intamin rides throwing people out?

Jeff already pointed out some of the major problems with the Intamin t-bar system. There's also the very basic problem that it's extremely difficult to determine who can and cannot ride safely with this restraint because there's no ratcheting system or seatbelt that determines when the lapbar is down far enough.

It's sad that these incidents have happened, and even sadder that parks have been found responsible for not checking restraints. But with so many incidents with this particular restraint system, I think it'd be difficult to argue that Intamin wasn't in some way responsible.

-Nate

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 12:06 PM
I thought Hydro already had the newer Dragster-style restraints? It looks like El Toro will even have another new (for Intamin at least) lap bar restraint...
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 3:15 PM
I want to see El Toro's restraints. After all these incidents I wonder if they'll be drastically different or will they be Dragster style?
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 3:32 PM
The lap bars look very similar to the U-shaped bars found on Gerstlauer trains or Giovanola hyper trains. No more T-bar on them.

They also have little "wings" about shoulder height on each side of the train for each row. Not 100% of their function though.

When I rode Hydro back in 2002, two out of my ten rides on it, my lap bar wasn't checked. Seems like that trend continued. Not that a person isn't able to pull the damn bar lower, though!

JC

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 4:13 PM
...Or for a ride like Hydro, why use individual lap bars? The problem Jeff points out is that with the individual lap bars, you MUST restrain the rider in his own seat. If they are going to use bench seats on the ride, then why not use a single lap bar running the width of the seat? Drop it into one position and then it is easy to tell whether it is open or closed, and can even be MECHANICALLY interlocked with the ride control so that the water isn't even an issue. Set that up right and you still have to worry about idiots standing up, but for seated riders you can secure every one of them with little or no trouble.

For a water splash ride, why does the thing generate significant -Gz forces in the first place? Why isn't the rollover profiled to keep those forces under control so that an unrestrained rider doesn't come flying out? It can be done, as a matter of fact, Intamin is the company that did it years ago: see Congo Falls at Kings Island, for example.

I don't know, I'm with Jeff in that there are just so many different things that could have been different, so many things that could have prevented this incident, and plenty of blame to go around. Personally, I really appreciate the judge's instructions. With that in mind, the inquest may actually be able to determine what Knott's couldn't: How did it happen, and what went wrong.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 4:50 PM
^ The whole point of the Periolous Plunge type ride is the extreme movements of the ride. The negative-g's, steep drop, and huge wave are what make the experience. If the hill was profiled down so that no one would come out of their seat, it would be as unexciting as a regular flume ride.

A few posts up, someone suggested having all coasters and such only have positive g-forces. This would mean having no airtime on rides, or at some points just having B&M zero-g floater air that is not as fulfilling as the Intamin OMG-IM-FALLING-OUT air. Unfortunatley, because people don't follow rules and the restraints are not full proof, that kind of air sometimes actually leads to an ejection. Fix the seats to be like Dragsters, and everyone will be safe.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 6:06 PM
Just a question: I don't know whether this would apply to this particular ride or restraint system, but has anyone here ever called an op over to insist they physically check your restraint before the ride is dispatched (if they haven't done so)? I have, and quite loudly on occasion. I figure that's not the time or place to worry about making a scene or holding up the ride. Even when I'm in OK, I've asked ops who were just visually observing to check whether I was secure. What can they tell you, no I won't check?
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 6:48 PM
You shouldnt have to ask the ride ops if you are secured or not. Either you should clearly be able to tell by yourself as a rider if you are secure or the ride op should check it and have a way to verify that.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 7:39 PM

...Or for a ride like Hydro, why use individual lap bars? The problem Jeff points out is that with the individual lap bars, you MUST restrain the rider in his own seat. If they are going to use bench seats on the ride, then why not use a single lap bar running the width of the seat? Drop it into one position and then it is easy to tell whether it is open or closed, and can even be MECHANICALLY interlocked with the ride control so that the water isn't even an issue. Set that up right and you still have to worry about idiots standing up, but for seated riders you can secure every one of them with little or no trouble.

You're kidding me right? Why don't you do a little probing around and get yourself familiar with what's going on before you make a post like that. You are obviously not familiar with Hydro and Perilous Plunge. Just take on look at this photograph and then suggest to us a single bench lapbar system on these rides. And FYI, these rides DON'T have bench seating. There are individual bucket-style seats four abreast.


For a water splash ride, why does the thing generate significant -Gz forces in the first place? Why isn't the rollover profiled to keep those forces under control so that an unrestrained rider doesn't come flying out? It can be done, as a matter of fact, Intamin is the company that did it years ago: see Congo Falls at Kings Island, for example.

That's what you don't understand. The selling point of the Intamin Mega Splash/River Plunge ride is the "free-fall" effect simulating coming down a steep waterfall. It's not an ordinary shoot-the-chutes ride. Hydro and Perilous Plunge are gigantic shoot-the-chute rides both over 100-feet tall, with an angle of descent just shy of 80 degrees. That's what makes them what they are. Comparing these two rides to a 50-foot ordinary flume like Congo Falls really has no importance in your statement.

Sorry if I'm coming off a bit testy, it's just that it's annoying to read a huge post from someone who thinks he has an opinion for a solution when he doesn't even know what he's talking about to begin with.

*** This post was edited by kRaXLeRidAh 5/16/2006 7:58:55 PM ***

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:02 PM
Beast, my point was the ops ARE supposed to physically check restraints. As a larger person I sometimes need an assist with the between-the-legs belt on inverts, because it's damn difficult to hold the OTSR in place with one hand while trying to latch the belt with the other. The belt latches, but I just need an extra hand or two to keep everything still till it does. I don't have a problem asking an op for assistance.

FYI, the stories in the "See Also" menu to the right of the main story contain some interesting details.

---"The Hydro ride was closed at Oakwood for nearly a year following her death. It reopened in March 2005 incorporating changes recommended by the Health and Safety Executive. Police revealed in January that on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service no criminal charges would be brought following an investigation." (Inquest... May 16)

AND

"The Hydro ride was closed at Oakwood for nearly a year following Hayley's death but it reopened last March after changes recommended by the Health and Safety Executive were made. The ride now has over-the-shoulder harnesses instead of lap harnesses and has a new lock system." (Anger... January 20)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 2:20 PM
Amusement rides are supposed to provide the ILLUSION of danger with the reality of rider safety. Notice that I never suggested that the -Gz forces should be eliminated, only that they should be controlled so as not to throw riders out of the boat. The trick is to adjust the roll-over at the top of the drop to provide the necessary -Gz pop, and to roll down immediately into an extended 0Gz experience down the drop. The -Gz pop should only be strong enough and long enough to separate the ass from the seat, NOT enough to separate the rider from the boat. Once up, the 0Gz will keep the rider airborne all the way down the drop. It isn't easy, but it can be done (in fact a lot of coasters do it!), and it can determine whether the unsecured or improperly secured rider comes back in the boat or on a stretcher.

It's really hard to tell in the Oakwood photos I have looked at, but it looks like Hydro does not have (or at least did not have) the 'glas side bolsters between the seats that Perilous Plunge has. Given Jeff's comments, I would not be surprised to learn that those bolsters were added as part of the post-incident modifications to the ride. It's true that I have never seen either ride in person.

As to the question of loading a bunch of people onto bench seats, securing them with a shared single-position lap bar and shooting them down "THAT DROP"...provided that the rollover is designed properly, why not? It's really not that different from, say, Snake River Falls at Cedar Point. It's a little taller and it's a little steeper, but that doesn't matter. What matters is the force profile, and that can be done safely. And if going over the drop only lightly secured scares the living crap out of some riders, that's perfectly OK, as that's what the ride is supposed to do. But it is not supposed to kill people. That is !ok.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 3:58 PM
Here's a 2003 pic. I'd say the second girl over isn't far from getting out. Now imagine a smaller person in that seat, seated next to another small person. I'm sure I'd have no trouble getting out.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 4:39 PM
I wish those ECC people had left a couple of empty seats for those photos...

In the photo kRaXLeRidAh linked to above if you look closely you can see a molded ridge between the seats which would serve as a divider to keep riders in their own seats. Unfortunately, the only pre-modification photo I have found so far of a Perilous Plunge boat with empty seats is of the boat that beached itself on the rocks at the bottom of the ride, and in that shot you can't see the seats. It is not clear whether either ride had that 'glas ridge in place before the incidents.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 5:16 PM
http://www.coasterclub.org/gallery/displayimage.php?album=101&pos=17

http://www.coasterclub.org/gallery/displayimage.php?album=101&pos=25

Design modification of restaint system as of 05.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006 8:19 PM
Honestly, All the cases of that restraint failure have been due to the bar not being in proper possition. Weight is not the cause but can contribute to a false looking proper possition.

Chuck

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