Kentucky Kingdom managers says drop ride should have auto shut down in case of cable break

Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2007 9:31 AM | Contributed by Jeff

An amusement park ride where a girl's legs were severed last summer was not designed to stop automatically in case a cable broke, the park's maintenance chief said in a deposition. John Schmidt, ride maintenance manager for Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom, said the Superman Tower of Power should have been designed differently.

Read more from The Associated Press.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 9:34 AM
I'm not sure this is helping the case of the park. The ride's mechanical movement mostly consists of moving the catch car up and down the tower, since the actual stop of the drop is controlled by magnets. Once the cable breaks, the ride does what it should and stops the car at the bottom, without requiring any power.

Technicians also visually checked the cables twice a week from the top of the ride, and once a year, inspectors would measure the diameter of the cable at various points, he said.
Anyone want to bet that this is less frequent than Intamin requires?
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 9:53 AM

An amusement park ride where a girl's legs were severed last summer was not designed to stop automatically in case a cable broke, the park's maintenance chief said in a deposition.

This statement is so mis-leading. As Jeff said, the ride failed like it should have. I suppose each car could have had a way to slow the car down when a cable break is detected, but how do you detect that?


*** This post was edited by eightdotthree 12/19/2007 10:02:56 AM ***

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 10:00 AM
Different kind of ride, but I believe CP's maintenance checks Power Tower's cables every day. Every morning around 7:30am you can see the cars moving very slowly up and down the tower during the inspection.

While this is a freak accident, I can't help but think that something was overlooked. These rides have been around for years and nothing (to my knowledge) has happened like this.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 10:57 AM
It sounds like the Maintenance guy is trying to cover his own by pointing the finger at the designers.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 12:49 PM
And the blame game grows.

Face it, Someowhere both parties are at fault, It's just who's guilty of negligence.

Chuck

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 1:33 PM
If I am understanding him correctly (which I might not be) he is saying that the ride system should e-stop the ride if the cable breaks, even if the cars are in the process of being lifted. I would agree with that and I'm a little surprised that it doesn't do that. Wouldn't that be the 'fail-safe' action to take?
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 1:53 PM
But an E-Stop wouldn't have prevented anything in this case.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 2:35 PM
How would the car stopping have prevented the girl from being hurt? I was under the impression that the cable was under high tension, snapped, and severed her feet when it recoiled?

I understand why the ride was designed to drop and brake at the bottom during a failure; I would imagine it would be pretty risky to evacuate that ride from 200' (or however high it may be) if it e-stopped. Much safer to have it drop to the bottom and brake magnetically, with no chance of brake failure.

Just my $.02...

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 2:44 PM
It will be interesting to see what the designers of the ride say when it comes to the recommended maintence that should be performed on the ride weekly/daily /yearly etc and how SFKK followed these instructions. I havent seen anything yet that shows the ride wasnt constructed in a proper/safe manner and that this wasnt just a freak accident or a maintence issue.
If the design was flawed you would have many more injuries when you consider how many millions upon millions of people have ridden this type of ride with no similiar incidents.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 2:59 PM
Like said before me, an E-stop would have done nothing, if anything, this freak maiming of the girl was just the cable whipping out at the wrong time in the wrong direction and in the wrong place. Just think, if the cable had struck while the vehicle had been a few feet lower on the tower. That girl could possibly have been decapitated.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 3:38 PM
I think that an E-stop would possibly be a great solution to this issue. I don't think that the sheer speed of the cable snapping would have been enough to do what it did. It has been proven that snapping cables don't have enough power to do this type of damage.

I still hold to the idea that part of the broken cable was hanging from the catch car when the ride vehicle dropped. Her feet got tangled in the fallen cable somehow, and the force of the vehicle falling combined with her snagged feet was enough to pull her feet from her legs.

If the ride had E-stopped, they could have lowered the vehicle slowly and prevented this from happening. This seems to be an easier solution than trying to contain the cables.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 3:46 PM
I was under the impression that the cable snapped on the way up, but the actual feet severing happened during the drop down. At this point I don't think anyone is certain the order of events, but if the severing happened on the drop, an e-stop could've/might've/should've prevented the carriage from dropping.

*** This post was edited by thrillerman1 12/19/2007 3:48:54 PM ***

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 4:20 PM
I am under the impression that if the car would have been stopped then the girls feet wouldnt have been taken off by the cable.

Does E-stop mean that the ride op has no way of stopping the car if a cable snaps?

I thought her feet got taken off because her foot got caught while the car was moving?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 4:41 PM

How would the car stopping have prevented the girl from being hurt?

If the car wouldn't have released at the top, her feet wouldn't have gotten tangled and severed.


Technicians also visually checked the cables twice a week from the top of the ride, and once a year, inspectors would measure the diameter of the cable at various points, he said.

If they have the same Intamin Giant Drop maintenance manual that I have, then they are clearly not doing it right. Those cables need to be inspected much more often than that.

There are safeties in place to E-Stop in this situation. It's possible that this cable snapped in just the right way not to activate it... it's also possible that the safety mechanism wasn't adjusted right to begin with. It's all speculation, though. We may never find out what actually happened.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 5:18 PM
Perhaps it was just the issue of the park not having the money in their budget for proper maintenance. I was there that day and Thunder Run in particular was in worse shape than I've ever seen an operating coaster. Side pads were missing, holes, and my lap bar popped up.

Either way, it was still a freak accident, I'm sure the newer towers (if they don't already have installed) they will get some device that can detect that.

As bad as it is, thank goodness the cable didn't fling across other body parts/head.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 9:01 PM

I think that an E-stop would possibly be a great solution to this issue. I don't think that the sheer speed of the cable snapping would have been enough to do what it did. It has been proven that snapping cables don't have enough power to do this type of damage.

If this assertion is based on the Mythbusters episode dealing with this topic, I wouldn't be so sure. Their methods, while entertaining, aren't fool proof, and do not take all possible scenarios into consideration (for obvious reasons).

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 9:41 PM
The order of the incident was fairly simple. The car began its ascent towards the top of the tower. About 20 feet or so off the ground one of the 2 cables on her car snapped (this model has two cables many others have more but are also later additions and taller heights). Once the cable snapped it wrapped itself around her lower leg and ankle.

As this is happening the car is continuing to be raised to the top of the tower using the second cable. The car reaches the top and releases as normal. Now when the car releases from the catch car, the cable stays at the top of the tower while the car free falls. As it drops the cable gets tight, legs are lifted up, I would imagine the girl slid down in the seat as her legs where pulled until she was stopped by the restraint. Then the feet are pulled off of her body by the stationary cable as the car continues its decent.

Since the incident all similar drop towers have added safety sensors for each cable. If at any time the sensors feel that one cable is no longer present the ride will stop. This would leave the riders stopped where they are on the tower, or in the SFKK case about 20 or so feet off the ground. They would then have to unwrap the cables from the girls legs and take them off the ride using a cherry picker or something.

Or if the second cable were to break, the car and the catch car would both fall and slow down during the breaks. The guests would be untangled and unloaded on the ground in that situation.

I think it is easy for Six Flags to put the blame on the ride not having an automatic shut down system in this situation. A cable snap is something that is bound to happen one way or another, and when thinking about what could go wrong I think this is the first place you would look. Also giving the company's track record with safety, and over looked scenarios ending very poorly, a lot of time in fatality, its easy for Six Flags to try and take this one off of them. Now in Intamin's defense, this kind of thing is such a freak accident that its hard to consider thinking of ideas to prevent it.

As long as Six Flags can prove they have done every thing to Intamin standard in terms of inspections, as well as state standard, this is sure to be passed to Intamin.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 10:53 PM
^Intamin's track record is something that can be debated.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007 11:18 PM
Where's Dave? I always appreciate his insight in these matters.
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