One person dead after rapids ride boat flips at Adventureland

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

One of four people who were hospitalized after an accident on the Raging River ride Saturday at Adventureland has died, according to a statement on the park's Facebook page. According to the Altoona Police Department, six riders were on the raft when it overturned around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, according to a previous statement on the park's Facebook page.

Read more from The Des Moines Register.

Related parks

TheMillenniumRider's avatar

Deflated boat?

Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

After some googling, it looks like Raging River is an Intamin rapids ride that runs 6 person boats. It opened in 1983.

Coasterbuzz - Coaster enthusiasts, but so much more. We're the good ones.

A partially deflated raft flipping over caused the fatal accident on a similar ride at SFOT in the late 90s. I’ve read in a couple of places that the Adventureland accident happened the same day the ride reopened from a lengthy rehab.

One of the problems with these rides is that the boats are inherently unstable (top heavy) and there are a fair number of failure modes which will cause them to overturn. It's a rare occurrence but it's kind of like collisions on doesn't happen often, but it does happen and there are multiple ways it can happen. Underinflated tubes, broken or loose lashing ropes, boat jams, boat jams on conveyors, boats dragging on weirs, excessively unbalanced loads...there are plenty of ways this can happen, and mitigation strategies in place for most of them.

I don't know if it would do me any good if I were involved in an incident, but personally, when I ride these rapids rides, I almost always have one hand on the release for whatever restraint the ride is equipped with. I figure if it goes over, I don't want to have to search for the buckle.

I find the whole situation rather upsetting.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

OhioStater's avatar

Absolutely horrifying. I don't have a link, but ABC nightly news just had an interview with the family and video of the boat just behind the one that overturned; someone was filming with their cellphone.

The father's recollection of the incident was difficult to listen to.

It's also a reminder of how lucky all the passengers aboard Shoot the Rapids were years ago, with no way for any of them to free themselves.

Last edited by OhioStater,

Promoter of fog.

It's pretty chilling. (Link)

99er's avatar

I experienced this exact situation once as the manager on duty at a park. The cause of the flip was determined to be an unbalanced raft that hit a rapid just right. Thankfully nobody was hurt and all went home on their own but it could have been very different had the operator not hit their E-stop. The attraction never reopened and was eventually removed. To this day still the worst situation I've had to handle in my career. I have only been on one rapids ride since then and it was at DAK in 2019 at the request of a friend otherwise I will always avoid those rides.

Last edited by 99er,


Honestly, after watching that video, I don't see myself going on a rapids ride again. And I love me some Popeye & Blutos at IoA. I know it doesn't happen often, but it's happened enough.

I've never been a fan of the rapids rides based on the wetness factor. I much prefer a good log flume. Put me in the camp of never riding another one after seeing the accident.

In addition to feeling terrible for the family who lost their son I feel bad for the people who were filming. They clearly wanted to help, but how?

I have not been on one of these in awhile, but the ones that I remember riding had a velcro strap for the seat belt. I would think that should be really easy to undo in an emergency but I know that things happen when the body is under duress - simple tasks become not so simple. Now add in a real seat belt buckle like this one has and that task gets even more difficult.

I do wonder if the children were injured/hurt when the boat flipped and that is what prevented them from getting out? The water is not very deep, could they have hit their heads on something?

Jeff's avatar

I assumed this was around the station or something, but it's the middle of the ride. That's horrifying.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

hambone's avatar

I rode Congo Rapids at SFGAdv yesterday, with this in mind although without having seen video. I didn't ride with my hand on the buckle, but I definitely made special note of where it was, how it opened, and how I might get out from under a flipped raft. Of course, if I'd hit my head on the raft or the bottom that wouldn't have done much good.

The problem with these rides is inherently contradictory goals:

1) Rafts that don't capsize
2) Rafts that tip *enough* to make for a thrilling ride.

In order to get the latter (as well as maybe to get more spinning), the rafts have to be top heavy and have minimal draft.

If they were somehow loosely tethered, with a chain or a cable, to a track running along the bottom of the channel, you might be able to prevent capsizing while still permitting a lot of free movement. But that would complicate the lift hill and moving rafts around, among other things. Short of that, or a major boat redesign, these seem like they might be the most dangerous ride in the park, and it's a surprising changes haven't been forced on them already.

Normally I’m Mr Morbid Curiosity but this time I can’t bring myself to pull this one up. I’ll take everyone’s word for it.
It seems like these rides are so prone to accident. And all I can think about was my trip down one of the rockinest I’ve ever experienced, Phantasialand’s River Quest. I think it’s a Hafema ride, and at one point it has such a sheer drop that I couldn’t imagine how the boats stayed upright. Add to that a whirlpool feature and an elevator lift- in my mind all invitations to disaster. I rode it because I felt I had to. It was fun, I was soaked. But I’m going to think twice in the future about these.
Wait. I have yet to try these new high rides- Sea World’s or SDC’s. Damn…

Jeff's avatar

But rafts "tip" relative to the surface of the water, so you can have a "down hill" element like the one on Popeye's at Islands of Adventure. I don't think you need to raise the center of gravity to the point of making it dangerous.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog

hambone's avatar

I agree, there's an amount of tipping that is less thrilling and safer. (I'm not familiar with Popeye's, so not sure exactly what you're describing.)

I supervised the SFOT Intamin rapids ride in years prior to their accident in '99 and saw it do some things that gave me pause. A boat flipped while it was being moved from the trough to a reservoir one morning. The process for doing this was a little sketchy - dispatch the boat to be removed from the station conveyers, let it run the course of the trough, e-stop the ride when the boats reach a certain point, and hope that the current from the backup behind the pumps would push the boats into one of the reservoirs. They would usually send 2 employees in the boat to move the boat if it didn't end up in the right spot. Fortunately they didn't do that and no one witnessed exactly what happened to cause the boat to flip.

Another incident involved a boat sinking at the bottom of the lift conveyers before the station. There were 2 side by side conveyers with directional nozzles ahead of them to direct the boats to a particular side. There switched automatically after each boat, but the operators could override them manually if needed. They didn't always push the boat to the correct side and this particular night, there was a delay in the station and a boat stopped in the trough at the bottom of the lift. Another boat came in behind it and the tube of that boat rode over the top of the other pushing it down into the water. It took on water quickly, the operator saw it and e-stopped, and the guests quickly bailed out to the boat ahead of them on the lift and onto a catwalk next to it. Only one person had some bruises from slipping on the way out but the whole incident made me uneasy.

I've only been on one rapids ride since then - Kali River Rapids at Animal Kingdom.

Does anyone know the boat capacity of the rides that have flipped? I was just curious to see if the smaller boats are more prone to tipping than the larger 12-person rafts?

Jerry - Magnum Fanatic
Famous Dave's- 206 restaurants - 35 states - 2 countries

The Adventureland boats are 6 seat and the ones at SFOT are 12.

Size doesn't seem to matter.

Also, the boats are obviously top-heavy and have almost no draft. But that isn't what makes them so prone to tipping over. I mean, the large surface area should make them pretty stable. The issue is that when they get upset a little, these rides provide a lot of things that can then *push them over*. The key seems to be that if they can float freely, they will tend to right themselves. The issue is that they get jammed up in various ways, and then get pushed over by either the force of the flowing water, or by overriding the boat behind.

I also wonder if the high seat backs are intended to be high enough to keep the tube out of the water if the boat flips over. In other words, the inverted boat is no longer floating, but has the tops of the seats on the bottom of the trough, probably with airspace near the floor. I wonder if that is done to stop a capsized boat and make it simpler for riders to get themselves out of trouble. I do notice that in the video linked above, the capsized boat is not level and seems to have its tube out of the water; I wonder if the high side is resting on the weir that probably caught the tube or boat and thus caused the upset.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____

You must be logged in to post

POP Forums - ©2024, POP World Media, LLC