Pigeon Forge amusement ride manager murder trial to start

Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2005 1:18 PM | Contributed by supermandl

Barring a last-minute plea, the manager of a roadside amusement park in the Smoky Mountain tourist town of Pigeon Forge will stand trial on charges of murder this week in the death of a Sumner County woman who plunged 60 feet from a Zamperla Hawk at Rockin' Raceway.

Read more from The Tennessean.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 8:04 PM

The incident has prompted legislation calling for new vigilance of amusement parks in Tennessee, one of 13 states with no regulation of the industry.

'The No. 1 thing is we don't want anybody to get hurt,' said state Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, who is pushing for counties to issue permits regarding amusement rides immediately.

While it is unfortunate this accident and death occured, I am thankful the state is finally waking up to the much needed regulation of amusement rides here.

Thursday, May 12, 2005 7:30 PM
So you're saying that if this guy had a permit in his wallet he wouldn't be an idiot?

This accident had everything to do with carelessness and stupidity, and nothing to do with regulation.

Friday, May 13, 2005 4:53 PM
he is saying that if the state actually LOOKED at the rides that were operating, the chanced of something this large falling through the cracks would be signifigantly reduced. I tend to agree with him.
Friday, May 13, 2005 9:54 PM
I still disagree. This incident was due to one person overriding a security feature in the morning, and someone falling out.

State regulation doesn't mean that someone will be there inspecting the ride between every cycle.

I'm all for proper registration and regulation, but something like this is exactly what falls through the cracks, regulation or not. It wasn't a defect, it was human error (stupidity) and no amount of paperwork will overcome that.

Friday, May 13, 2005 10:13 PM
kpjb, I'm willing to bet that the ride didn't have all it's safety features overriden overnight, even if they are checked only once a year, that is still enough to keep a ride like that from running unsafely indefinately.
Saturday, May 14, 2005 10:04 AM
Here is a site that has a recap of the trial.


Saturday, May 14, 2005 4:02 PM
Cameron is correct. The override was not that morning by any account. If you believe the defendant, Zamperla did it much earlier. If you believe the prosecution, it had been done at least a year earlier by the defendant. A competent annual inspection would likely have caught it.

I'm doing a fair amount of writing about this at http://masstort.org, though Jared's site (the already-mentioned RideAccidents.com) is doing a more thorough summary of testimony.

Saturday, May 14, 2005 6:32 PM
Are you talking competence like you see at the average DMV? Or maybe competence like you see from "name your state here" highway workers? Airport security anybody…? The list goes on and on…

It sure sounds good and easy to believe that further regulation and inspection will improve matters. This seems like the usual “knee-jerk” reaction whenever something like this happens. Politicians get involved and it sure “feels-good” to support safety, even if the response actually does nothing to improve safety, but rather, only serves to over-regulate and burden legitimate businesses. Do you really believe that government inspectors could possibly know more about he rides they are inspecting than the maintenance workers for the parks themselves? State inspections will do nothing more than add increased downtime and paperwork in my opinion. I do not believe that safety records will improve one bit should the state increase regulatory activities.

Saturday, May 14, 2005 8:10 PM
I know enough state ride inspectors to be able to very confidently say that they do in fact improve matters considerably and in some cases do know as much -- or more -- about the rides than park workers. Are there problems? Yes -- the death in Ohio is a good example. But they do a lot more than add downtime and paperwork, and this is an excellent example of a case where they would have saved a life.
Saturday, May 14, 2005 8:28 PM
Incidentally, a competent inspection by an insurance company inspector would have also caught it.
Sunday, May 15, 2005 12:00 AM
We'll never know if a life could have been saved. Based upon my experience with government regulations and oversight, I certainly have my doubts. Apparently your life experience with government employees is different than my own (I work for government by the way---oh the dilemma in my lifestyle versus worldview)…

This case will be decided based upon the facts/circumstances, as it should be. If all is as it appears, I can only assume the punishment will and should be harsh.

Out of curiosity...is there any evidence that shows increased regulations/oversight has any affect/effect on ride safety? For example, is there any studies/evidence that would indicate that those states with more stringent regulations on the carnival circuit do indeed demonstrate decreased ride accidents as opposed to those states with more lax regulations? I assume you (torgo) would be a good source for this type of information if any such data exists. I do not believe that there will be any statistical evidence that will suggest that increased regulations/oversight leads to increased safety, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise if there is any objective data available that would prove otherwise.

I assume this type of information is hard to find…but I could see how the insurance industry might have some data on this type of stuff. I’d be real interested in looking at the data.

P.S. In my experience-based opinion, competent and government government go together like oil and water...

Sunday, May 15, 2005 5:34 AM
I've looked for and never found data either direction in the ride safety context. I know there are examples of industries that became safer after regulation, but they're all different enough contexts that they aren't terribly convincing -- medicines became dramatically safer after FDA's creation, cars got better after federal oversight, etc. If you'd like to fund it, I'm happy to do that study.
Sunday, May 15, 2005 10:20 PM
Hello. I was called as an alternate juror for this trial, but I got off because of jurors being sequestered. I have been wondering who else had access to the ride manual particularly the ride operators. I have been wanting to hear from the ride operators that were running the rides when the one fall and two other almost falls occured. Yesterday the prosecution brought in one operator. Not the one who was operating the ride at the time of the fall and almost falls. I read in the paper today that IT WAS THE SAME OPERATOR at the time of the fall and one of the two other falls. I am very curious to know if he was present at the third incident as well. How hard would it be for a teenager or one of his buddies to find the wiriing diagram of the hawk ride. My keyboard doesn't type question marks. I am now suspecting that the operator may have connected the wires at the beginning of his shift and disconnected them at the end of his shift. He or one of his buddies who came to ride could have initially rigged it. The manager said he wasn't in that box much. I don't think he did it now. That is my opinion as of today.
*** This post was edited by 5/15/2005 10:34:02 PM ***
Monday, May 16, 2005 3:59 PM
Did anybody see the defendent place the supposed "red" bypass jumper? I've followed this as much as I can, and still have not seen this evidence presented. Without a witness, I do not see how the jury finds this guy guilty.
Monday, May 16, 2005 4:42 PM
There is no direct evidence that he placed it. The evidence that exists is circumstantial evidence based on testimony that he was the primary (some said only) person to access the panel and that he was the only person to do work on it. It isn't the strongest case and, as I've been saying, I wouldn't be surprised to see the jury compromise with a lower charge (negligent homicide or whatever the lesser charge is - I forget).
Tuesday, May 17, 2005 7:05 PM
I left the courthouse early and didn't hear jury instructions. Evidently they did not have to prove the manager actually PUT the black jumper wire on just that he should have known it was there. Unless my theory about the operator is correct, he definately should have known the wire was there. The red wire was bypassing a faulty motor switch. I would have gone the same way as jury if I knew they didn't have to prove he actually placed the wires himself. He will probably have to pay the 5000.00 fine. The judge has discretion as to 2-4 years or probation Prosecuter is asking for max. The defense witnesses were terrible! My favorite line was when the prosecuter said" She wasn't riding the schematic diagram was she, she was riding the ride. An operator also testified that there are LED lights on each seat to let you know which seat is not secure, and that a lot of those lights had burned out. Eventually they may have been bypassed too, I am not sure though. The son did say his mom hated rides and never went on them. She just did it for him. She and the aunt wanted to get off at the last minute.

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