Manager says Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom tower not maintained properly before accident

Posted Monday, April 14, 2008 11:21 PM | Contributed by Raphael

Maintenance workers for Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom did not follow several of a ride manufacturer's instructions for caring for a cable that snapped and severed the feet of a Louisville teenager last summer, according to a maintenance supervisor's sworn statement. John Schmidt, the park's ride-maintenance manager since 1999, said in a deposition in November that technicians for the theme park never performed a hands-on inspection before the accident on any of the 10 cables on the Superman Tower of Power ride.

Read more from The Courier-Journal.

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Monday, April 14, 2008 11:35 PM
The more that comes out of this, the more annoyed I get. If they can't settle, the court is going to blast Six Flags. That poor girl is going to be set financially for life, but what a horrible price to pay.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 12:03 AM
It's a scary thought that an inspection like that isn't done. Makes me think twice before going to some parks.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 12:16 AM
I am almost scared to visit SFKK this season. Are any of the rides properly inspected?

(Shivers as he thinks twice about buying a season pass...)

*** This post was edited by DantheCoasterman 4/15/2008 12:19:01 AM ***

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 1:40 AM
I'm going to say that it's possible that if more news comes out like this, the park may have to shut down due to lack of business. At this point, what could the park possibly do to to gain the public's trust?

I moved closer to the park a year and a half ago, and planned on going sometime, but after the accident, I had second thoughts. Although another accident is unlikely, after reading this there is no way in Hell they could get me on any of their rides.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 2:04 AM
Aye... it wouldn't surprise me if Kentucky Kingdom goes the way of Astroworld and Geauga Lake now...
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 9:27 AM
The only thing they can do is man up and say, we fired the people responsible, we really screwed up, we're really sorry and see how the public responds. Of course, that will never happen because of the lawsuit.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 10:56 AM
Boy, do some people have short memories. In the next example though, it's understandable. Does anyone remember the Chaos accident at Michigan's Adventure where the wheel actually rolled off? They were darn lucky that there were no fatalities. Here's a small section out of the final report from (sorry, can't get link to come up right) that should chill some readers to the bone who don't remember:

According to the report, Michigan's Adventure did not provide any evidence to the state that all required inspections of the ride were performed and certified by "special commissioned inspectors," as the state requires, nor that the bolts had been inspected according to the specifications of the ride's manufacturer, Chance Rides of Wichita, Kansas. The state also says that the park failed to provide documentation of regular monthly torque checks of the bolts as required by a service bulletin issued by Chance. Investigators also say that park inspectors told them that the bolts were visually inspected most of the time, and not checked with a wrench.

Hmmm..., the park is still standing, they're still adding new attractions, but the one thing that is similar is that the ride was removed. I'm sure they lost some people's trust at the time. I'm sure the conversation went something like this; "Well honey, if they weren't checking that one ride correctly, what makes you think they were checking any of the rides properly? That's it, the kids aren't going to the park anymore."

Then the next year rolls around, and a great majority of people have already forgotten about the accident, or have put it out of their minds. People still have a desire for amusement thrills and are willing to "forgive" that one "problem." Listen, I'm sure I could come up a hundred more incidents like this one where major accidents occurred due to negligence (meaning not following the manufacturer's rules), but yet the people still returned year after year.

Lastly, as someone who worked for Six Flags under the old management, I can tell you that every ride was inspected and signed off by maintenance before we could ever operate it each day. When I would work a morning shift, I would always see someone inspecting Tower of Doom. Obviously, I cannot vouch for the new management.

I do agree with Jeff that it's time for the park to start doing some damage control, and fast. Provide records that each ride was inspected every day. Get depositions from the maintenance guys that they weren't just sitting around in the break room playing cards before their shift ended. Say that the accident was an aberration, and that you fully intend to make sure nothing like it ever happens again due to your new vigilant inspection program. That's how you win the public's trust again.

*** This post was edited by Intamin Fan 4/15/2008 11:07:07 AM ***

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 12:04 PM
I gotta say, when I visited SFKK last year, some of the track on Thunder Run looked (and felt) really bad. And some of the of the non-track wood -- hand rails, cat walks -- appeared to be rotting.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 12:26 PM
And with the section of park containing Twisted Twins, Mile High Falls and some other rides being completely closed this season I gotta wonder just what the hell is going on over there? It can't be good.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 12:28 PM
^^ Daily inspection isn't the same thing as "hands on cable" inspection. Before an op can touch a ride at most parks it's signed off by electric, maintenence, and in some cases fiberglass inspection . Meaning ride is visually inspected and cycled and that's about it.

Hands on cable inspection would generally be something that happens if the off season. I don't know a lot about the drop tower inspections, but know that for a sky coaster those cables are sent out in the offseason and checked by a technician for any sort of stress cracks. Since they both use cable systems I'd assume something similar would be required for a drop tower.

This deposition is essentially a smoking gun. I really hope that Six Flags settles this soon because the more of this stuff that comes out, the more people are going to to assume that Six Flags = not a safe place for my kids.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 12:33 PM
Can you point me to names of the victims who lost their feet in the Chaos accident?
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 1:54 PM
As Jeff suggests, one difference is MiA got lucky.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 2:42 PM
Honestly this doesn't surprise me one bit. Shapiro admitted on a conference call that maintenance budgets had been greatly slashed by the previous regime, despite the fact that parks kept receiving new rides. A friend of mine worked at SFMM for a summer about 2 yrs ago, leaving the job just after Fright Fest. The lack-of-maintenance horror stories he used to tell me are the main reason I won't go back to that park.

*** This post was edited by Mamoosh 4/15/2008 2:43:24 PM ***

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 3:57 PM
Those stories came out of the former Six Flags Worlds of Adventure as well, and the ride growth there was unprecedented. It's mind boggling that you would ever sacrifice maintenance at the risk of hurting or killing someone.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 5:14 PM
The scary thing about what Shapiro said in 2006 (or was it 2007?) is that he was increasing the maintenance budgets up to what they were in 1997!
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 8:36 PM
Regardless, it isn't looking good for this park.

They have a May 10th opening day which is a full 5 weeks later then normal for this park. This park used to open end of March/beginning of April.

I don't see SF running this park much longer. It will probably convert back to total Kentucky state fair control.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 10:03 PM

Cropsey said:

Daily inspection isn't the same thing as "hands on cable" inspection.

It is if it's specified by the manufacturer.

I said from the day this happened that the cause of it had to be poor maintenance.

The guy said they didn't lubricate the cables because they hit against the rails and pick up grease? That's crap... your cables are too loose, and shouldn't be out in high winds.

You can't see the entire cable to inspect it? What about from the motor room? The entire cable passes through there except for about five feet on each end, which is easily seen from the ground.

There's no excuse for this. Budget cuts or not, I'd refuse to sign off on a ride if I was not given the proper tools or budget to inspect it properly.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 1:58 AM
Jeff said:

Can you point me to names of the victims who lost their feet in the Chaos accident?

Nope, I can't point you to anyone who lost their feet, but I'm sure it was just as mentally traumatic in some aspects nonetheless. The extrication of the riders took five hours. Since I believe from the article that the ride was in the tilted-down position, that would mean that the seats were also freely rotating. The wheel rolled off and fell down,which I would think would place some people in a very bad position depending on their seat position.

This was just one example, and like I said I could find plenty of others where people didn't follow manufacture instructions, substituted cheaper materials not rated for use on that attraction etc.

As riders we go into a park trusting that maintenance has taken the time to fully read the manuals and follow the instructions to the letter for all the rides in the park. Unless you've got some inside track that I don't, none of us can really be sure that every park maintains or inspects the rides before our arrival, and if it has, was it done correctly?

And this is very true of life itself, unfortunately. Why was the bridge in Minnesota approved for use if it still had structural deficiencies? Why didn't the Army Corp of Engineers make the levees the right height in New Orleans? Why were the directions not followed about the ceiling bolts in the "Big Dig" in Boston? How about the San Francisco zoo that built its walls for the tiger exhibit too low leading to the death of a customer?

Listen, I firmly believe that no one looks to kill their customers as has been often said around here. It's bad for business, especially in an amusement park where death, dismemberment, or serious injury is not the expected outcome of your trip. But, unfortunately companies either cut corners, or try to get by on too few staff members.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 5:23 AM
As potentially tragic as the incident could have been at MiA, it wasn't. That does not take away from what caused the incident, but due to MiA's quick work, the incident was released to the public and really never heard from again.

That is just not the case with SFKK. It seems that they want the publicity by not settling this thing ASAP.


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