masstort.org

Amusement safety and such

Details are essentially  nonexistent — basically, a rider returned to the station unconscious and couldn’t be resuscitated.  While it was at the same time as an enthusiast event at the park, the victim wasn’t an enthusiast or there for the event.  When things like that have happened in the past, it’s often been due to a pre-existing condition, perhaps exacerbated by the motions of the ride, but — to be clear — that’s pure speculation.

As I’ve posted about earlier, a miniature train derailed in March in South Carolina, killing a six-year-old boy.  The investigation indicated that the train was going too fast (the conductor said he was going “too [expletive] fast”).  One could imagine legislators responding in various ways — e.g., increasing inspector resources, increasing penalties for noncompliance, etc. (consider what Massachusetts did a few years ago after a high-profile death) — but instead, the legislature chose to do pretty much the most narrow response one could imagine: requiring a speedometer and a speed regulator.

Of course, that might be all that’s really appropriate.  They have a pretty typical yearly inspection program (with state inspectors); there’s no indication that this incident was anything more systemic.  It sure is narrow, though.

For non-fixed-site parks, the CPSC has (non-exclusive) jurisdiction.  While the agency doesn’t do any inspections or approvals, it does from time to time investigate post-incident.  That’s happening now in connection with the recent death at the midway at the Houston Rodeo.  The death has also resulted in a lawsuit by the victim’s survivors.

Two interesting apparent facts are noted in the story — neither of them necessarily enough to reach any conclusions.  First, the ride operator was evidently not watching the ride at the time of the incident (though it is unlikely he could have made a difference if he was watching).  Second, the ride’s restraints were apparently in place upon the ride’s conclusion.

Marion Grant was a bystander who tried to help three-year-old Jayson Dansby, who fell from the roller coaster at Illinois’s “Go Bananas” family entertainment center and died.  She has now sued the FEC for emotional distress resulting from her efforts.  The complaint apparently alleges that she was in the zone of danger.  The report doesn’t indicate whether she was on the ride, and prior reports have indicated that the fall occurred outside of the general area of the business (behind a small wall).

The Chicago Sun-Times has a story.  The ride is a Miler kiddie coaster in operation since 1997.  As you can see in this RCDB photo, the trains have lap bars that go across both people in the trains (i.e., there are no individual bars or belts).  The coaster goes behind a wall into a semi-dark area, which is evidently where the boy got out from under the bar and fell.

Neither document provides much insight into what happened, but here they are anyway:

Complaint

Answer

Both are PDFs.

The Houston Chronicle has the (minimal) details.  The suit was presumably filed to make sure there’s a document retention obligation and a chance to investigate through the civil side.  A Houston Press blog post has some more of the allegations.

RideAccidents.com has the police’s record of statement of the train’s conductor [PDF] in the Spartanburg train accident; in it, he says he was going too fast and knew it.  The train derailed, killing one six-year-old boy and injuring many others.

It remains unclear exactly how it will end up being relevant, if at all, to the miniature train accident, but a local news station found the conductor’s blog, on which he expressed some concerns about whether the train would pass inspection (and discusses problems with the brakes).

According to this story, the operator of the train that derailed, killing a boy, knew as he was running the train that it was running too fast.  That, if true, provides a potential nexus between the accident and yesterday’s report indicating that the state inspector falsified the report, indicating that he had checked the ride’s speed.  (In fact, the train was not operational when he did the inspection.)  Another report indicates that the ride was going “really fast” on the third circuit.