Kentucky Kingdom ride operator says she couldn't reach emergency stop

Posted Monday, January 14, 2008 9:42 AM | Contributed by Jason Hammond

In a deposition released as part of a lawsuit against Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom by Lasitter and her family, a 16-year-old ride operator said she heard the loud noise, but was too far away from her stop button, or “E-stop,” to act quickly.

Read more from The Courier-Journal.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 9:49 AM
First time we've seen a photo of the kid. That sure makes it more real.

I think now more than ever it's obvious the park can't chalk this up to a freak accident. It does seem pretty obvious at this point that there should be sensors that check the tension on the cable.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 10:11 AM
Thank goodness they can't release the ride op's name. The media would invade his/her life in an incident that shouldn't be framed as preventable by the ride op.
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Monday, January 14, 2008 10:22 AM
I'm a little confused by this comment from the ride operator.


She said the ride was nearing its peak when she heard the noise, and she was a couple of feet away from her E-stop, so she yelled at the other ride operator — who she said was closer to one — to stop the ride.

If the ride is in operation and you're controlling the ride, your hand should be on or near the e-stop at all times. That should be simple procedure. All eyes should be on the ride when it is in operation. That way you can see and hear the cable hanging there and press the e-stop button.

After visiting Kings Island for the first time this year (I always go to Cedar Point) the fact that 16 year olds are in control scared me a little. Most of them didn't look like they were alert or really knew what to do in case of an emergency.

Should 16 year olds really be able to control a ride? While it is simple to press buttons, there is a lot more visually to take in account than what may be perceived from the average person.

EDIT

I should also note that I don't think the blame should be pointed at the ride operator, but obviously at the park and their procedures. Along with the disgusting details about that cable not being replaced.

*** This post was edited by gomez 1/14/2008 10:31:00 AM ***

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Monday, January 14, 2008 10:35 AM
I have never had trouble with the KI ride ops. There always seems to be at least one person over the age of 18 there at the major rides when I go. Either that, or there are some very old looking ride ops at the park.

Now Holiday World is the park where the ride ops worry me...

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Monday, January 14, 2008 10:38 AM
Procedures only work if your people follow them. Not saying it was this particular ride operator's fault (there's no telling if the mechanical problem could have been avoided or not). In my experience, when pressing an E-Stop on any ride, it's something that you might second-guess, and regardless of age of the operator, it can be a hard decision to make. And to be effective in something like this, it had to be split-second. That said, I can recall times when an E-Stop should have been hit, and it was not (and the operator was older than 16). It comes down to the situation.
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Monday, January 14, 2008 10:54 AM
^ Also it makes those split decisions harder if there's potential for disciplinary action for the employee if the button was deemed to been pushed at the wrong time. That would also make that split second decision harder to make.
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Monday, January 14, 2008 10:59 AM
So now that we got the second-guessing about hitting e-stop put away. How about the fact that e-stop can't be hit, when you're not even by the button?

Sure procedure is only as good as it is followed, but that's an issue of the park doing its job to be sure they have the right people in control of their rides.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 11:16 AM
I'm still confused... what would an e-stop have done in this situation? Wasn't the car on the way up when the cable snapped? Wouldn't the car just drop at that point? It seems like the e-stop is only useful if the cable is still intact, because there are only two places to stop the car--at the top and at the bottom. Right?

I also imagine the public might freak out about a 16-year-old at the controls, but then again, do rides get any easier to operate than an Intamin drop tower?

SF and SFKK had better be prepared to just pony up the cash, Disney-style.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 11:18 AM
This is very interesting about the e-stop. I see two possibilities:
- employees are required to stand next to their e-stop but this employee was not

- employees are not required to stand next to their e-stop

I really hope the latter is untrue, because I know at Cedar Point we were required to have our HAND on top of the stop button on a lot of rides at all times the ride is in motion. It is a sad reality that this employee may have just been talking to a friend and had her back turned to her post while the ride was in motion. I'm not saying that this is definitely the case, but the whole "I was too far away from my button" thing sounds strange to me.

I agree with what's been said about procedure not being followed. That still falls on the park's supervisors to ensure that the team leaders ARE enforcing safety procedures. Cedar Point made no joke about that and you would definitely be reprimanded if you were not operating the ride according to standard procedure.

After working at CP for two summers I have never felt safer in that park.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 11:31 AM
I'm not sure its ever been determined, but I'll ask anyway.. Did her feet get severed as soon as the cable snapped, or did it happen when the ride dropped (because the cable was wrapped around her legs)?

If it happened as soon as the cable snapped, my assumption is that an e-stop wouldn't have helped much (other than the girls being stranded near the top of the tower with serious injuries).

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and all that, and the fact that the ride-op wasn't near the e-stop button really shows (in my opinion) that operation procedures probably weren't being followed. No amount of money will ever be able to compensate for her injuries, but I suspect Six Flags and/or Intamin will be writing a large check in this case.

Jerry

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Monday, January 14, 2008 12:00 PM
Not the first photo we have seen of her. There was one that was used in just about every article and news cast when it originally happened.

An e-stop can be used anywhere prior to the ride releasing from the catch car at the top of the tower.

A review of the sequence of events is car takes off, cable snaps somewhere on the way up the tower (apparantly hitting one girl in the head a couple times, as well as another girls feet). Wraps around the victims legs. Car reaches top of tower, cable stays at top with the catch car. As the car drops the feet are yanked off.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 12:12 PM
An e-stop would've parked the car where ever it was. It could then have been lowered back down slowly with the remaining good cable.

If the ride op had to tend to the gate as well, count out the next passengers or whatever, that wouldn't seem unreasonable to me. Coaster operators usually don't watch a train go all the way up the lift, and this is conceptually similar.

I still think there should've been something to check tension on the cable. I think it was suggested that subsequent builds of this ride do have those sensors in place.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 12:28 PM
^ That's true in most circumstances, but there are a few exceptions. Holiday World monitors riders up the lifts of Raven and Voyage. At WT, the station operator must watch the station at all times for gate jumpers. On all of the flats I worked on at CP, we had to watch the ride in motion at all times. If this operator was working a crowd position, however, then it's perfectly reasonable for her to not be watching the ride. It's disappointing that no one responded to her call promptly or that someone else didn't catch the loud noise.
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Monday, January 14, 2008 12:55 PM
What I see here is failure amongst several parties:
  • The Manufacturer- Should have had cable tension monitoring.
  • The Park Maintenance- For not finding the damaged cable before it snapped
  • The Ride Operations Staff- For not stopping the ride when the cable snapped.

*** This post was edited by Fun 1/14/2008 2:07:24 PM ***

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Monday, January 14, 2008 2:34 PM
I'm going by CP's standards as well. There ALWAYS is a person who is in control of the ride and should be watching it, while others take care of crowd. Sure coasters are a bit different since they cover an area out of visibility, but that's the reason for larger crews on coasters. The more eyes and ears to be alert. Most coasters have at least two or three e-stops just on the platform alone.

Sort of different, but an example I know of is Super Himalaya at CP. Always only one operator and we are specifically told NEVER take your eye off the ride in motion and ALWAYS have your hand on e-stop.

Drop rides generally have a large crew. If memory serves right, there's usually person in control, one or two people loading, and a crowd person who might also work load in between rides. In that case, only the crowd person should be able to walk away and do other things. Two or three sets of eyes are there. E-stops are/should be in each zone where a ride operator should stand while the ride is in motion.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 3:10 PM
Once the cable snapped, the girl would have been hurt, right??
So hitting the e-stop would have been too late to prevent this "freak incident".
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Monday, January 14, 2008 3:44 PM
If you read above, you'll see that the cable snapped before the car reached the top, and the "accident" didn't occure until after it dropped.
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Monday, January 14, 2008 4:10 PM
There is no evidence to suggest that had a ride op been watching the ride, that it would have changed anything. What was the vantage point of the ride ops from the ground? How high was the ride at the time of break? Was the break visible from underneath the car?

Sure they would have wanted to prevent the accident, but mechanical failure is never the ride crew's fault.

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Monday, January 14, 2008 4:34 PM
At the same time, had they heard the snap, see the cable swinging freely, and by an e-stop button I can't help but see where something could have been prevented. It's hard to say without knowing exactly everything.
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