How safe are the rides we take for granted? If you really look at even the simplest ride you would grimace. The big ones are the ones that grab our attention. But look at the statistics and you see the kiddie rides cause many injuries. Why because you can never predict what a child will do. A restraint can only work as well as it can but the children can twist and turn and before you know it they are loose. Edges are everywhere and kids get cut. What do you do, close the parks? Is Disney safe? Universal safe? Any ride anytime and anyplace can be a disaster. Have you ever seen the crowds in a thunder and lightning storm? They walk in the open and cannot believe that lightning can hit them. We believe it can never happen and yet once in a while in the papers people get hurt, and everyone shakes their heads and cannot understand it.
Roller Coaster Incident
We take for granted that the things we are doing supposedly for pleasure have no consequences. But if you take any machinery and abuse it that machinery can bite you in the rear end.
I was working for Cypress Gardens Amusement Park and had learned to operate their roller coaster called The Triple. It was named for three hurricanes that hit Winter Haven.
The Scenic Railway at Luna Park, Melbourne, is the world’s oldest continually-operating rollercoaster, built in 1912. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One summer. On this particular roller coaster and probably others the controls only work when the coaster is in the area where riders get on and off. Once the coaster leaves this area there are no controls but gravity and the use of common sense that riders will not do something stupid.
I had a supper break and was just coming back. I had ascended to the platform when I saw that the coaster was coming around the last turn. This coaster is an old one and wooden. It gets up to thirty miles per hour but it seems more when rounding a curve.
Just before the last curve a young kid stood up. Now the bars that we put down have wiggle room and if you are skinny and flexible you can slip free. But that was compounded because he stood up. As the roller coaster cars made the turn he tumbled out. He fell twenty feet to the concrete below. He lay there and was not moving. I thought he was dead.
The coaster came into the station. As it did the girl who was operating the machinery pushed the stop button. This automatically brakes the cars and freezes the bars holding the people into position. Therefore half of the cars were stuck outside the station and half were at the platform. One young man somehow wiggled out and jumped to the platform. He said something to the effect that the boy laying on the ground was his brother and that he had stupidly dared him to stand up. He was horribly distraught and ran out to be with his brother.
I unlocked the other passengers and got everyone off the cars. The girl operator called the tragedy into dispatch. A crowd was gathering around the body of the boy. We closed up the roller coaster and roped it off. Security guards ushered the people away from where the boy lay. Our medical personnel was already on scene.
It turned out that the boy was extremely lucky. On the way down he clipped one side of the ride and then another. This slowed his momentum. He still suffered quite a few broken bones, cuts and abrasions but he was alive. A helicopter landed in the park and took him to a hospital.
Those who were running that ride, including myself, were allowed to go home early as it was an emotion experience that drained us. I do not know how people who work ambulances and emergency wards do it. I was exhausted from the strain of the incident.
The police interviewed everyone the next day. Florida authorities inspected the roller coaster and the grounds and did their report. There was no question the young boy was at fault but legal cases have contributing factors interwoven into determinations and there was going to be a legal suit. To my knowledge it never came to trial. I assume it was settled out of court. I was glad because I really did not want to relive the experience testifying.