State says ride operators weren't properly trained in fatal Darien Lake accident

Posted Monday, July 25, 2011 10:43 PM | Contributed by Jeff

The Ride of Steel roller coaster was given the okay to reopen on Friday, two weeks after Army Sergeant James Hackemer, who lost both legs and a hip in combat in 2008, was ejected from the 208-foot-tall amusement ride. The state Department of Labor found ride operators at the Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort were not properly trained on the safety requirements and operating restrictions.

Read more from Reuters.

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Monday, July 25, 2011 11:19 PM
D_vo's avatar

I feel like you shouldn't need training to recognize that a person with no legs might not be properly restrained in a ride with a lap bar.
Forgive me if that's insensitive. A tragic accident that could have, and should have, been avoided in my opinion.


I call Cedar Point my home park even though I live in the Chicago Suburbs.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 12:06 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Hmmm. I have a problem with the title of the article when midway through it says:

"The Park's safety and operational requirements, which were visibly posted at the entrance to the Ride of Steel, were not followed by the ride operators," the Labor Department said in a statement.

There's a difference between not being trained and not following the training you were given.

Which is it?


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3:36 AM

I doubt most ride operators could tell you exactly what the sign in front of their ride says. Putting it on the sign does not necessarily mean they were trained to know about it, although I do find it hard to believe they'd leave that out of the training.


And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3:38 AM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

Well, the 'posted at the front of the ride' part is irrelevant.

The title says they weren't properly trained and the article says they didn't follow safety and operational requirements.

That's two totally different things. I wonder which is the case?


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 9:41 AM
Fun's avatar

I see it as both. They didn't follow safety and operational requirements because they weren't properly trained.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 9:53 AM
Bakeman31092's avatar

Lord Gonchar said:
There's a difference between not being trained and not following the training you were given.

The article didn't say the ride ops didn't follow their training. It said they didn't follow the policy because they weren't properly trained. I don't think the article's title contradicts its content.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 1:25 PM
LostKause's avatar

I am not seeing the contradiction either. I think that maybe we are not comprehending Gonch's post correctly, but I can't figure it out. I see it as both they did not follow safety and operational requirements, and they were not properly trained on safety and operational requirements.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 1:52 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

I didn't look at it that way, but it could be read that way too.

Seems worded weirdly (reduntantly?) to me. If they weren't trained then obviously they didn't follow procedure.

To me that's two different issues with completely different implications.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Tuesday, July 26, 2011 2:10 PM
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 2:52 PM

Unless it was the park's policy not to train them to follow the park's policy...


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3:22 PM
birdhombre's avatar

This statement is false.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 3:24 PM

I'm actually confused by the article, seeing it in both senses. The ride has a sign posted. If the ride ops cannot read their own signage, should they operate a ride that can severely alter peoples lives? If one cannot use common sense knowing how a restraint works, should they even be a ride op? How much training does it take to understand that if one has no legs, one will be ejected? I wasn't trained in all aspects of my occupation. High school and college taught the basics. I work as a chemist. If something goes wrong, I certainly cannot use the excuse of, "No one showed me that. No one told me that. I wasn't trained in that." If anyhting this is just an issue of common sense on everyone's part, including the victim.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2011 9:08 PM

The sign would list the safety and rider requirements for the ride. Part of an operator's training, testing and certification would/should include verification that they understand and are able to enforce what's on that sign.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011 2:14 AM
CoasterDiscern's avatar

Headline: Lack of training led to fatal roller coaster fall.

State labor authorities said, "ride operators were not properly trained".

Two paragraphs later: "The Park's safety and operational requirements, which were visibly posted at the entrance to the Ride of Steel, were not followed by the ride operators," the Labor Department said in a statement.

Im not satisfied at all. To blame the training, and then to blame the ride operators for not following operational requirements is unsatisfactory.


Ask not what you can do for a coaster, but what a coaster can do for you.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011 8:59 AM

The real question to ask:

#1 What has changed in terms of training of operators at Darien Lake? Did the ride ops go through a "refresher" course if training is really the problem?

#2 If there was a training problem on this ride, that could point to a systemic problem with all ride ops, requiring everyone to receive supplemental training.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:26 AM
Bakeman31092's avatar

Here is how I'm interpreting the article's title and the article's content: the policy was not followed. That is clearly what happened. The lack of training (or inadequate training) is why the policy wasn't followed. There are several reasons that a policy could not be followed...the op isn't aware of the policy, the op is aware of it but doesn't understand it, or the op understands it but chooses to ignore it. The "why" doesn't change the fact that the policy wasn't followed.

As for common sense, I'm sorry but you can't rely on common sense in this type of situation. First of all, common sense is hard to define. We as coaster enthusiasts think that common sense means you have at least a minimal understanding of how ride restraints work and a minimal understanding of how your body will react to the forces that the ride will produce. I don't think it's reasonable to expect that everyone has the kind of knowledge. Are we suggesting that the rider, the person who assisted the rider into the seat, the op who checked the restraint, the ops who all put their thumbs up and pushed their "go" buttons, and the hundreds of people watching that didn't say anything all lack common sense? I think not.

Regarding training, I can speak from personal experience because I worked on Power Tower at CP back in 2005. My memory isn't the greatest, but my ride specific training consisted of reading the manual the night before my first day and then a walkthrough of the different positions, where I was taught how to check restraints, push buttons, and communicate with the other ride ops. I did read the manual, more out of curiosity as to how the ride worked, but do you really think everyone is going to read the manual, or the signs? People that have a good sense of personal responsibility will, but not everyone does. It doesn't make them bad people or bad employees; it's just natural that some people will do what they are told while others will go the extra mile. Management has to understand that.

Last edited by Bakeman31092, Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:28 AM
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011 2:25 PM
Carrie J.'s avatar

I can't be asked to believe that the park makes sure to educate their riders of safety and operational requirements via a sign out front, but fails to inform the operators. That's kind of ridiculous.

And please do not get me started on the idea that providing written instruction/training is not good enough because people may not take the time or initiative to read it. That's unacceptable to me.


"If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins." --- Benjamin Franklin

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011 4:56 PM

Look at this from a regulatory perspective.

You KNOW that the posted policy was not followed.

You ASSUME that the employees will do what they are trained to do. Either they are doing as they are trained, or the training did not stick.

You therefore CONCLUDE that the employee training was inadequate.

It is very possible that the employees were properly trained but acted improperly. But the dude from the Department of Labor has no way of evaluating that. His assumption has to be that the lapse in employee action is the result of a failure of training. Otherwise he has to individually blame every person who worked on the ride that day for not following policy.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.


    /X\        _      *** Respect rides. They do not respect you. ***
/XXX\ /X\ /X\_ _ /X\__ _ _ _____
/XXXXX\ /XXX\ /XXXX\_ /X\ /XXXXX\ /X\ /X\ /XXXXX
_/XXXXXXX\__/XXXXX\/XXXXXXXX\_/XXX\_/XXXXXXX\__/XXX\_/XXX\_/\_/XXXXXX

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011 5:06 PM
Lord Gonchar's avatar

RideMan said:
It is very possible that the employees were properly trained but acted improperly. But the dude from the Department of Labor has no way of evaluating that. His assumption has to be that the lapse in employee action is the result of a failure of training. Otherwise he has to individually blame every person who worked on the ride that day for not following policy.

I think placing blame based on assumption sucks no matter where you place.

The implications are very different to me.

If the park is not training staff properly, that means a whole different thing (and has reaching effects) than if one or two idiots weren't doing what they were taught to do.

You ASSUME that the employees will do what they are trained to do. Either they are doing as they are trained, or the training did not stick.

I think that's the biggest mistake one could make in this situation.


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Wednesday, July 27, 2011 11:34 PM

Well reading between the lines, the questions I would want answered is how does this particular Six Flags train their operators, and do they have written proof these operators were trained on this particular ride. If you are going to try to find out exactly where the failure occured, these questions need answered.

Typically operators need to be signed off on a ride, although the requirements for them to be signed off differ depending on their position. The requirements for a lapbar checker usually aren't as stringent as an operator with their hands on a button, but still should have included the policies on disabilities or casts. However, I wouldn't immediately point to just the lapbar checker as there was the employee who let him on in the first place. Also ultimately the main operator at the panel has the final say generally, and I have a hard time believeing they did not notice as its their job to observe the train as it goes out of the station. Plus you would also think they would have seen something as Mr. Hackemer was being assisted in boarding the train. Lastly as responsibility goes, its the job of ANY operator to point out and stop the ride if a safety issue is occuring.

Now, on the other side, if the operators were not trained for this particular ride which unfortunately seems to happen especially with large summer crowds, they simply may have never known. In this case, its an issue of the park not guaranteeing adequately trained personnel are running the ride.

Either way its a horrible tragedy that should have been avoided and its always bad when procedural holes are only discovered through accidents. The basics of operating a ride are fairly simple. Unfortunately what often isn't realized or is lost as each group trains the following are the sometimes unique details that are covered in the original training. Its a major frustration when I've trained a number of operators for days and then returned to the park in sometimes only the space of a month later and find an entirely new set of operators running the ride. At that point I can only hope that they managed to convey everything I said exactly in days of training.


-Brian

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