Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom defends maintenance

Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 9:31 AM | Contributed by Raphael

Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom officials defended their ride-maintenance procedures yesterday in the wake of new information released by the family of 14-year-old Kaitlyn Lasitter in their lawsuit against the park. The documents the Lasitters released to The Courier-Journal included laboratory tests on a ride cable that snapped last summer and severed Kaitlyn's feet, a deposition from the ride maintenance manager and the maintenance manual for the ride carrying Kaitlyn. The documents were obtained through the legal process but had not been added to the court file.

Read more from The Courier-Journal.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 11:25 AM
I'm confused how Six Flags can defend this testimony...

"Kentucky Kingdom's ride maintenance manager, John Schmidt, said in a sworn deposition that technicians did not lubricate the cables, and that they applied cornstarch to reduce "cable slippage" from overlubrication.

The manual contains no recommendations for using cornstarch or any other substance to reduce lubrication and says excess oil and dirt should be cleaned from the cables."

And then...

"In a statement to the media yesterday, park spokeswoman Carolyn McLean said: "Information released before the investigation is finalized may be inaccurate or incomplete. We stand by our maintenance procedures and the safety of our parks.""

I don't understand how you stand by something that is incorrect according to the manufacturers instructions?

And the "best" part...

McLean also said park officials were "disappointed that representatives of the Lasitter family have chosen to make these documents public, ignoring the court and the proper legal process."

I'm thinking the Lassiters are dissapointed that their child has had her feet severed, and wished that Six Flags had followed proper procedures.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 12:40 PM
Yeah, fire the PR person. Even "we don't comment on pending litigation" was a better line.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 1:02 PM
^I'm sure "we don't comment" is what the Legal Dep't recommended.

"We stand by our maintenance procedures" isn't something you want the Lassiters' attorney reciting after reading over Schmidt's testimony. It only serves to further inflame a jury already prepared to rip SF a new one.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 2:36 PM
Well, I guess if the jury awards a hefty chunk of change SF may have to change it's name to Recievership __________
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 4:40 PM
Strictly from a park industry standpoint, this whole incident is a nasty blow. Most of the so-called 'GP' aren't going to remember that it was Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom where this tragedy occurred, or even that it was at an SF park at all. The whole thing will get dumped in the 'Amusement Parks are Unsafe' file in the back of peoples' brains (a file which the media seem to rejoice in reinforcing again and again). And for a certain, probably small, subset of the public, this memorable event will be the tipping point in deciding not to take their kids to parks, period. SFKK will suffer, certainly, but so will the whole industry.

Note: the above viewpoint in no way takes away from the horrible, life-changing tragedy this girl experienced and continues to experience.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 8:00 PM
I don't agree. Too many parks had record attendance in the later part of last year.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2008 9:08 PM
And when Six Flags pays out $100 million or more in court judgments for negligence, you don't think that's gonna make the big media for a few cycles? People will remember this sort of thing, I predict -- even if some of the particulars get lost in the shuffle.
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Thursday, April 17, 2008 12:29 AM
"Strictly from a park industry standpoint, this whole incident is a nasty blow. Most of the so-called 'GP' aren't going to remember that it was Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom where this tragedy occurred, or even that it was at an SF park at all. The whole thing will get dumped in the 'Amusement Parks are Unsafe' file in the back of peoples' brains (a file which the media seem to rejoice in reinforcing again and again). And for a certain, probably small, subset of the public, this memorable event will be the tipping point in deciding not to take their kids to parks, period. SFKK will suffer, certainly, but so will the whole industry."

I also disagree. The park wasn't any less crowded in the later part of the year in 2007 than it was the year before that.

And though everyone knows about the accident, I've heard several people mention that if the ride was still open, he/she would ride it...
*** This post was edited by DantheCoasterman 4/17/2008 12:30:58 AM ***

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 9:43 AM
"And though everyone knows about the accident, I've heard several people mention that if the ride was still open, he/she would ride it..."

This ride is still open at different parks around the world, working fine. There wasnt a case that I know of where other parks removed the same ride from their lineups. So, no ill effects of this incident on this type of drop tower.

I guess I just don't understand why the maintenance people at SFKK never (apparently) bothered to discuss the way they maintained this Intamin ride with other people who maintain similar rides at other Six Flags parks - OR why was there not a set protocol from Six Flags Corporate on lubricating cables/maintaining Intamin Drop towers????

This, to me seems like negligence on the part of SFKK and it reflects poorly on the company as a whole. And that's how this case will go down, and deservingly so. When you are a patron of a park, your expectation is that you will be kept safe, and fortunately that's the case for about 99.9% of the people that go to parks. The age 18 ride operator law may have been a good start, but what about regulating what goes on behind the scenes in regards to maintenance? I'm not all about government regulation, but where's the balance? I hope this doesn't show the true colors of Six Flags as whole - that they're all just slapping on band-aids to fix whatever ride is broken that day. That scares me the most...that there is some sort of break down in communication when it comes to maintenance.

Now that we have seen several incidents of cable failure on rides and coasters - mostly Intamin btw, I've become a little leary about jumping on a ride that uses cables.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 3:33 PM
rollergator said:

It only serves to further inflame a jury already prepared to rip SF a new one.

I think you're missing how the whole jury process works, or maybe aren't familiar with it.

I was on a first degree murder trial as an alternate juror a few years ago, and I'll explain, especially for anyone for whose never served due to either having an overage (I've seen quite a few movies and never served), or having a number that's higher than what they need on the jury date etc.

The last time I didn't get so lucky and served on a first degree murder trial and we thought we had lucked out because our call-in number was higher, meaning they had an overage for that day. Not so lucky this time. We were served again with jury duty, but this time it was because out of the original pool they called, we were the people they wanted.

They use a process called Voir dire: From old French, the legal phrase means "to speak the truth" or "to see them say." Voir dire is the preliminary examination of a prospective juror by a judge or lawyer in the case to decide whether that person can serve on the jury.

First the judge asked if anyone knew anyone else in the room, and for as monster-sized a county as Baltimore County is, it was surprising how many people knew each other (example: I'm a nurse and she's my patient etc.). Then it was does anyone have any relatives in law enforcement, prosecution etc. Many more people were dismissed.

Then once that mess is done, the defense and prosecution lawyer/s go through each potential candidate one by one. You stand there and can be excused for any reason and they don't even have to tell you why. Once the jury panel was put together, even more people got eliminated.

Once that's over with, the judge explains that you are only allowed to listen to the evidence presented in the trial and are not allowed to conduct your own investigation or visit the crime scene.

So sorry to make this long, but rollergator, they want people in the jury box who are intelligent, and can be unbiased. Is this possible? Sure it is. You might have people who've never heard of the incident. I know plenty of people who watch little to no t.v. You also have plenty of older people who don't have internet access, cell phones with news etc.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 4:14 PM
Aren't familiar with it? Wow dude... good thing I'm not Gator, because I'd be really pissed off if you said something that presumptuous and arrogant to me. How stupid do you think he is that he doesn't know how jury selection works?

Gator's comment was right on. There isn't a soul in Kentucky that isn't going to know about this case. There isn't a soul who would serve on a jury, hear the evidence, and not already want to stick it to Six Flags. There is no situation on Earth that Six Flags isn't going to pay dearly, it's only a matter of how much.

A lawyer friend speculated to me that the family has been made an offer, and they're likely holding out, as well they should. The good thing that perhaps has come out of it is that they've held out long enough that this apparent disregard for protocol and careful maintenance has become public, which should change their habits drastically.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 7:36 PM
"They use a process called Voir dire: From old French, the legal phrase means "to speak the truth" or "to see them say." Voir dire is the preliminary examination of a prospective juror by a judge or lawyer in the case to decide whether that person can serve on the jury."

Duh. Like we've never seen My Cousin Vinny?!? ;)

I have to agree that intelligence, bias, or even prior knowledge will have nothing to do with things if this goes to trial. A 14-year old girl lost her feet riding an amusement park ride that there is now documentation to prove wasn't maintained properly.

The outcome is pretty much self-evident. And even if it wasn't, I can't imagine there are many people who could hear this story in court and not lead with their emotions.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 8:22 PM
I was on a first degree murder trial as an alternate juror a few years ago, and I'll explain...

Dude, that's so not how it works. Every jury I've sat on (and it's been many) has been selected using the "Eenie-Meenie-Moe" method.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 11:21 PM
^And I thought I had it worked out:) Seriously though, the first several people they kept were white senior citizen women in a young African-American trial. I thought surely they'd pick someone who represented their race, but we had a purely white jury.

So anyway Jeff, I didn't say that rollergator was stupid, (How could I, I've never met the guy?) but the way his comment came off struck me as being cold; like everyone who serves on a jury is automaticaly in the court of someone who got hurt by big business.

So if I did make rollergator upset, I do apologize. But let us not forget that this is the internet where what we say can come out completely different than if we were having a live conversation. We lose tone and inflections, and aren't able to see facial expressions, or have a back and forth conversation. Emoticons are an extremely poor substitute.

If I can use an example of this using you Jeff, a perfect example would be Online Jeff vs. In person Jeff or Podcast Jeff. They share some similarities, but aren't quite the same.

So anyway, the reason I explained the jury process is because there are plenty of people who have been notified of jury duty multiple times, and have never had to serve, or may have never served due to age. My friend who is 28 has never been on a jury. The last time he got called, he got out of it due to his work.

No one knows what the trials are going to be before they arrive at the courthouse, even in some high-profile cases. The way gator phrased things was that there were going to be people rabid and chomping at the bit to make sure that Six Flags goes to hell financially once on that jury.

It may not work out that way. You're not supposed to be making decisions based on your emotions (although I'm sure many will); but rather on the evidence, witnesses, testimonies, industry experts etc. All it takes is one person who doesn't agree and they're deadlocked.

If you get some people in that jury box who believe that "There are inherent risks in the participation of any ride" (sentence one of the Rider Responsibility clause in any Six Flags Park Map & Guide), then you might have problems.

If you took a poll and asked several hundred people if they thought amusement park rides are safe, I'm sure you'd get a whole lot of people who don't think they are, and high-profile accidents may reinforce this concept in their head.

They might believe that it was just an accident that came about due to Kaitlyn's venturing into the park, no matter if the ride was maintained correctly or not. If the family is holding out for more money as your friend says, I wish them luck as I'm sure her medical bills have got be astronomical. Insurance only goes so far.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 11:41 PM
There is no way that the Rider Responsibility clause is going to get successfully invoked at this thing. Having one's feet chopped off is not a reasonable risk to expect on a public attraction catering to millions of people.

Another thing to consider is that Six Flags could make a motion to move the civil trial to the state and locality of their corporate headquarters -- New York City, isn't it?

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Thursday, April 17, 2008 11:45 PM
It never ceases to amaze me how I can't read the tomes you write, Intamin Fan. I never finish them. And if you knew me, you'd know podcast me and real me are the same person. What the hell are you talking about?
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Friday, April 18, 2008 1:43 PM
I guess I just don't understand why the maintenance people at SFKK never (apparently) bothered to discuss the way they maintained this Intamin ride with other people who maintain similar rides at other Six Flags parks - OR why was there not a set protocol from Six Flags Corporate on lubricating cables/maintaining Intamin Drop towers????

They did. It says in an earlier article that they got the idea of using cornstarch from Paramount's Great America. If PGA is doing it, you can probably assume the other Paramount parks were too. It doesn't sound to me like SFKK was doing anything out of the ordinary. They were checking the cable with a micrometer on the advice of a state inspector. It also doesn't surprise me that adjustments to maintenance recommendations have to be made after a ride is in operation. Things show up that a manufacturer may not have taken into account. I know those rides were always greasy from the lubrication on the carriage track, it doesn't surprise me that the cables picked up a lot of that grease and became overlubricated. Of course it doesn't explain why they never did the rag test, but who knows for sure if such a test was recommended when this tower was installed? Let's not forget this was the first one.

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Friday, April 18, 2008 2:44 PM
Inspection and maintenance procedures specified in the ride manual, prepared by the manufacturer, calls for a "rag test" to be used in conjunction with a visual inspection to detect broken wires that could weaken the cables.

I see 3 major issues that really bother me.

1. The spokes person saying we stand behind our procedures, when it is clear they did not follow the manual. So esentially she is saying we stand behind and support our staff not to follow the manufatures recommended procedures. WOW

2. Apparently they tied to pay off the family and settle but the family wanted this maintainence neglect known to the public. I read elsewhere some of the fathers statements sayign it would be brought to light. It is obvious neglect of the parks part.

3. Why does corporate maintanence not have procedures for each park to follow with audits to ensure it is getting done. It is rather scary for me to think about! I just assumed it was all detailed and a check list was made by the manufacture for the parks, done on schedule, documneted and reviewed. I have taken safety as a given but this proves I should not be so trusting.

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Friday, April 18, 2008 4:18 PM
^ In terms of line 3, standard procedures for each park to follow only work if the parks have the same ride, the same model, operating in the same state. If we think about it, how many different rides are truly identical. You have to remember the amusement park industry is not like the auto industry where there are literally hundreds of thousands of identical models produced. The most popular amusement rides have possibly 20 - 25 installations. And these installations may or may not be identical, as different generations of rides tend to have slightly different installations (look at the difference between X at the former Geauga Lake and Stealth. Same basic ride, but my understanding is very different cars. Would a standard procedure for KI and CW work? Probably not. Now in the case of the Six Flags drop towers and the cloned Batman rides, there is a strong argument that could be made. But, does a corporate wide policy make sense? Not necessarily. Each state may impose its own safety requirements. Furthermore, unlike other industries, Amusement Parks tend to operate with more independence than other industries. So while standard policies make sense at a high level, it may not be the silver bullet you think it is.
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