Archive for July, 2010

Amusement Park Accidents

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 | Permalink

July 08, 2010 /24-7PressRelease/ — Amusement Park Accidents

Amusement parks provide a wonderful day of fun and excitement for the family. However, safety must be exercised in order to avoid a tragic ending to a fun-filled day.

Amusement parks compete to have the highest, fastest and most frightening rides for their customers, and the competition is very intense. It is in this forum that the ride designs must be checked by mechanical engineers to make sure once the ride is installed, it is going to be easy to maintain and fail proof as far as safety for the customers. Many of these rides require daily maintenance that is essential to the safety of the customers and the methodology of maintaining, inspecting and governing these rides is paramount.

If, unfortunately, someone is injured as a result of defective ride maintenance, it is important to know exactly the standard of care for maintaining amusement park rides and how such maintenance should be documented. Many accidents result from operator inattention or an inadequately trained operator. If an accident occurs as a result of operator negligence, it is important to learn what the standard of care for operating the ride was. There are several areas that are essential to the training of ride operators that insure the safety of the customer utilizing and enjoying that ride.

The owners of the amusement/theme parks and their insurance companies fight quite hard to avoid any payment of claims for fear of negative publicity which can affect their attendance rates and bottom-line profit. As a result of the staunch defense in amusement park cases, it often takes immediate and intensive investigation, experts from all over the country, and engineers to build a strong and effective case against the amusement parks and their stable of in-house investigators, experts and lawyers.

In addition to the large amusement parks, many accidents take place at local fairs and carnivals which are relatively short-term entertainment events. One of the major problems encountered with these short-term events is that the operating safety procedures and standards are not nearly as stringent as those governing the large amusement parks. Rides are repeatedly assembled and disassembled only to be moved to a different location week after week. Obviously, when a local fair comes into town, it is essential to get the rides up and running as soon as possible. The storing, transportation and maintenance of the rides and operating equipment are sometimes simply not done in the best interest of the customers. Rides are over-used, maintenance is often not performed, and sometimes the smallest of parts is compromised leaving a dangerous situation for the customer. Simply, these rides at local fairs are not as safe as they should be.

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Theme Parks: Parks Around the World Announce New Attractions for 2010

Monday, July 19th, 2010 | Permalink

“Each year parks and attractions look for new and innovative ways to entertain guests and provide unique opportunities for friends and families to spend quality time together,” said Charlie Bray, president and CEO for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. “2010 is shaping up to be an exciting year as several multi-million dollar, record-breaking investments have already been announced.”

Here’s a preview of some of the new developments already announced throughout the world for 2010:

North America:

In spring 2010, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay, Fla., will welcome families to an all-new, Sesame Street-themed playland featuring Elmo, Big Bird, and all their friends. “Sesame Street Safari of Fun” will feature rides, shows, and adventures that celebrate the spirit of Africa, including a new “Air Grover” family roller coaster. www.buschgardens.com

Canada’s largest themed waterpark, Calypso Waterpark, is scheduled to open in June 2010 in Limoges, Ontario. The park will span more than 100 acres and feature 35 waterslides and a 50,000-square-foot wave pool. www.calypsopark.com

Carowinds in Charlotte, N.C., will introduce a new roller coaster inspired by racing legend, Dale Earnhardt. The 232-foot-tall “Intimidator” will send riders plummeting down a 211-foot first drop, then race at 75 miles per hour through more than a mile of high-speed twists, turns, and seven more extreme drops. www.carowinds.com

Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, will open a new 2,100-foot-long water thrill ride, “Shoot the Rapids,” which simulates white-water rapids. The three-minute ride will take guests on 10-passenger boats through a ride complete with an 85-foot drop and meandering rivers along the Frontier Trail and Millennium Island. www.cedarpoint.com

A $1 million water slide is planned for Dollywood’s Splash Country Water Adventure Park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Modeled after one of Dolly Parton’s favorite childhood activities, the “Slick Rock Racer” will span 300 feet and feature four side-by-side lanes with riders belly down on mats sliding downhill head first. http://www.dollywoodssplashcountry.com/

Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind., will open the second-largest ride addition in the park’s history in 2010. Touted as the world’s longest water coaster, “Wildebeest” is one-third of a mile long and will cover more than two acres. The new water coaster will feature four-person rafts in which guests will experience a 38-foot drop at a 45-degree angle and travel up and down seven additional hills, three tunnels, and around a helix. http://www.holidayworld.com/

Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pa., will introduce a new roller coaster for 2010. The new launch coaster “Sky Rocket” will take riders from zero to 50 miles per hour in less than three seconds. The ride will feature a 95-foot vertical climb, a 90-degree plummet, three inversions, and a corkscrew. www.kennywood.com

Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va., will also introduce a Dale Earnhardt-themed coaster, the “Intimidator 305.” This 305-foot-tall gravity-driven roller coaster takes riders along 5,100 feet of steel track at 92 miles per hour. www.intimidator305.com

“Flying Turns” will open for the 2010 season at Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pa. The thrill ride features a train that rides in a trough guided by the curved walls surrounding it. The cars are allowed to freewheel with the centripetal force creating the effect of a bobsled ride. www.knoebels.com

La Ronde in Montreal, Quebec, will introduce a suspended roller coaster. The ride features five inversions, more than 2,200 feet of track, and two 20-passenger trains. www.laronde.com

LEGOLAND California Resort in Carlsbad, Calif., will open the world’s first LEGOLAND Waterpark this June. The park will include a lazy river, several water slides, a splash tower, spray LEGO models, and two beach areas. www.legolandwaterpark.com

Nashville Shores in Nashville, Tenn., will expand this year with new attractions including a 25,000-square-foot wave pool and a 1,000-foot-long lazy river. www.nashvilleshores.com

Noah’s Ark Waterpark in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., will open a 10-story-high looping tube waterslide, “Scorpion’s Tail.” Riders of America’s first looping water slide will zip through the 45-degree-angle loop-de-loop at speeds up to 40 mph. www.noahsarkwaterpark.com

Quassy Amusement Park will open “Free Fall ‘N,” a family-friendly drop-tower ride. With a circular seating arrangement, the ride will lift 12 riders to the top of the tower before releasing the ring of seats for a series of thrilling drops. www.quassy.com

Seabreeze Amusement Park in Rochester, N.Y., will open “Revolution 360°.” Guests will face outward aboard a giant disk which rotates 360 degrees in both directions five stories high. www.seabreeze.com

Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., kicks off its year long 50th Anniversary celebration with the opening of “Tom & Huck’s RiverBlast.” Raft riders and spectators, armed with water soakers, battle each other raft-to-raft and raft-to-shore. http://www.bransonsilverdollarcity.com

Opening Memorial Day at Six Flags Great America near Chicago, Ill., is the new “Glow in the Park Parade,” featuring state-of-the-art floats, intricate light design, and Cirque-style music. The “Glow in the Park” nighttime parade will start in Hometown Square and will take approximately 30 minutes to wind through four themed sections, including Carousel Plaza, Orleans Place, and Mardi Gras. www.sixflags.com/greatAmerica

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Jackson, N.J., will open “Tornado,” a seven-story water ride that will send passengers plummeting down a tunnel into a 60-footwide funnel. www.sixflags.com/HurricaneHarborNJ

Inspired by J.K. Rowling’s best-selling novels, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter a multimillion-dollar project at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, Fla., will provide visitors with an immersive experience. Opening in spring 2010, the new world within the park will transcend generations and bring the wonder and magic of the amazingly detailed Harry Potter books and films to life. www.universalorlandoresort.com/harrypotter

Europe:

Alton Towers Resort in Staffordshire, England will open “Thirteen,” a roller coaster which will take riders into the Dark Forest. www.altontowers.com

The “Cobra” coaster will open at Conny-Land in Lipperswil, Switzerland. The shuttle coaster will travel at 52.8 miles per hour and feature more than 705 feet of track with a 118-foot-drop. www.connyland.ch

De Efteling in the Netherlands will open a new dual wooden roller coaster, “George and the Dragon.” Two separate tracks, “Fire” and “Water,” will comprise the coaster, each a total 700 meters in length, with a maximum height of 21 meters. www.efteling.nl

The newly reconstructed Grand Pier in North Somerset, England will reopen in the summer of 2010. The attraction will feature a 90 meter-high panoramic tower providing up to 40 guests at a time a spectacular view of the town. The pier will also introduce a new fun house, go-kart track, surf board ride, laser room, and mirror maze. www.grandpierwsm.co.uk

A mine train-themed coaster, “Tren de la Mina,” will open in Isla Mágica park in Seville, Spain. The steel sit-down coaster cost an estimated €4 million and is manufactured by Vekoma. www.islamagica.es

At Nürburgring in Nürburg, Germany, the new “ring°racer” will take guests from zero to 135 in 2.5 seconds. The Nürburgring is a motorsport race track known in Germany as “The Ring, ” and the new roller coaster is part of a new entertainment area created in 2009 called “ring°werk.” www.nuerburgring.de

A “Monster” is coming to Walygator Parc in Lorraine, France. The coaster features loops, a zero-gravity roll, cobra roll, and two corkscrews. www.walygatorparc.com

Zoosafari Fasanolandia in Puglia, Italy, will open the “Euro Fighter,” a steel sit-down coaster that travels at 43.5 miles per hour and features three inversions. The park touts the attraction as a revolutionary roller coaster suited to an audience of real daredevils. www.zoosafari.it

Middle East:

With more than 20 rides and attractions, including the world’s fastest roller coaster, Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is set to be the world’s largest indoor theme park, sitting under a roof designed in the style of a classic double-curve body shell of a Ferrari GT car. www.yasisland.ae/FerrariWorld_en_gb.html

Asia:

In January 2010, the World Chocolate Dream Park opened in Beijing, China, featuring a life-sized edible Terracotta Army, a replica of the Great Wall of China, and chocolate versions of famous paintings. The park is located at the Olympic Green, which includes the Bird’s Nest stadium and the Water Cube aquatics center used during the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.

Universal Studios Singapore, a new theme park opening this year, will include a dueling roller coaster and state-of-the-art attractions. “Battlestar Gallactica,” themed after the popular television series, will feature one inverted track for thrill seekers and one sit-down for families. “Madagascar: A Crate Adventure,” will bring DreamWorks Animation’s blockbuster movie “Madagascar” to life with an innovative indoor boat ride featuring animated figures, digital projection, evocative sound, and special effects. Far, Far Away Castle — from the movie “Shrek,”— will house attractions such as “Shrek 4-D,” “Donkey Live,” and “Magic Potion Spin.” www.rwsentosa.com/en_universalstudio.html

About IAAPA

IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions is the premier trade association for the attractions industry worldwide. Founded more than 90 years ago, IAAPA is the largest international trade association for permanently situated amusement facilities and attractions and is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the attractions industry.IAAPA represents more than 4,000 attraction, supplier, and individual members from more than 90 countries. Visit IAAPA online at www.IAAPA.org.

Theme Parks Are Facing More Regulation As Accidents Are Publicized

Monday, July 19th, 2010 | Permalink

Posted by gary on April 19th, 2010

If it seems you’ve been hearing more about theme-park accidents in the past two years, you have.

California’s amusement-ride safety law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2000, requires amusement parks to report any serious accidents. According to the state, Walt Disney Co.’s two Anaheim parks and Knott’s Berry Farm led California with the most accidents.

That’s to be expected. The Orange County parks draw about 17 million visitors a year. And, state officials say, Knott’s and Disney might be more diligent than others in reporting incidents.

Still, a string of recent park accidents has put operators in the spotlight. In the past year, both Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm came under scrutiny when patrons were seriously injured or died after accidents on park rides. In October, a wrongful-death suit was filed against Knott’s after a woman fell from Perilous Plunge, a water ride, and died.

“Any accident impacts the industry worldwide,” said Susie Storey, communications manager for the International Association of Amusement Park Attractions, an industry trade group. “Any incident is one too many.”

The apparent increase in injuries and deaths at theme parks has led to more scrutiny of amusement rides and proposed federal legislation.

The good news for park operators is that accidents don’t seem to dissuade park-goers.

“We don’t see a huge drop in attendance or in-park spending that can be attributed to an accident,” said John Robinette, a Los Angeles entertainment consultant.

Just the same, park operators generally are skittish about discussing the issue, concerned that the public might start to fear amusement parks.

“A sticking point with the amusement industry is that they can’t generate 100% safety but the (park) guest expects to walk out the same way they go in,” said Mike Robbins, senior vice president of American Specialty Cos., which provides insurance to amusement operators.

Some government officials, such as U.S. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), believe federal regulatory power would help reduce theme park injuries.

While the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission tracks accidents, the agency was stripped of oversight of fixed parks such as Disneyland and Knott’s in 1981. That’s left up to states and the parks themselves. Markey has introduced legislation that would restore the commission’s oversight of permanent amusement rides.

The proposal doesn’t sit well with many industry players.

“No one’s saying it, but trial lawyers are behind (the legislation), and that’s probably something we should speak out about,” said Jack Falfas, general manager of Knott’s Berry Farm and vice president of its parent company, Cedar Fair LP. “They’re the ones profiting.”

Falfas, who spoke to the Business Journal before the Perilous Plunge death, said he favors legislation that focuses on preventing injuries. He said he fears current proposals would create another layer of bureaucracy without improving safety.

But Kevin Skislock, an Irvine entertainment analyst, said Markey’s legislation might not be all bad for theme parks and the public’s perception of them.

“Minimum standards are probably a good thing, regardless of who does it,” he said.

Even so, Skislock said, consumer perception depends mostly on how the amusement companies themselves confront the issue of safety.

For Walt Disney Co., that includes trying to foresee problems when rides are designed.

In a recent Web interview, Paul Press-ler, president of Walt Disney Att-ractions, said that is sometimes a tough call.

“We try to anticipate as best we can all the possibilities that can happen at atheme park, but it is unrealistic to think that you can think of all the possibilities,” Pressler said.

At Knott’s, Falfas had safety activists such as Kathy Fackler, whose son was injured at Disneyland in 1998, speak to employees about safety.

“I honestly believe it’s good business to work toward safety,” he said.

Park operators have a vested interest in safety. Insurance costs already can run into the millions, and reports of an injury or death on the 6 o’clock news aren’t the kind of publicity parks are after.

“Liability insurance costs are staggering,” Falfas said. “Deductibles are unbelievable. And rates go up if we have a bad year. We build profit penny by penny. One mistake wipes it out by hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Still, Robinette said, cost isn’t a factor in safety expenditures.

“Safety has to be there,” he said. “It’s part of the product.”

About 6,000 people were injured at amusement parks last year. The odds of dying on an amusement park ride are about one in 23 million, according to International Association of Amusement Park Attractions.

David Milton, a spokesman at Markey’s office, contends that injuries could be prevented if there was more regulation.

“Regulations vary from state to state,” Milton said. “If an accident occurs in one state, information needs to be shared with the others.”

But while lawmakers, consumer groups and industry officials debate regulation and whether thrill rides cause brain injury, the question remains whether the number of injuries warrants all the fuss.

Boyd F. Jensen II, an Orange County attorney and founder of the International Amusement and Leisure Defense Association, doesn’t think so.

“If anything, the number of injuries has gone down,” Jensen said.

At issue is the accuracy of injury data provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which compiles injury reports using data from about 150 hospitals across the U.S.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 6,523 injuries on fixed-site (permanent) amusement rides in 1998 and 7,629 in 1999,an increase of 15%. But in 2000, injuries dropped back to 1998 levels, even as attendance grew 6% to 317 million people in the two-year period.

Last year, the commission’s report was roundly criticized when it changed the hospitals it sampled but used the data for year-to-year comparisons. The CPSC later revised the report, but its methods continue to come under fire.

“There are so many more rides and more people going to parks, it’s better to look at the percentage of injuries (than the actual number),” Falfas said.

Jensen, a member of the industry’s main safety committee, said everyone in the industry knows that the safety commission data has its limitations, but they are the best available. And that raises some eyebrows. A recent Reason Foundation report said the commission’s margin of error runs as high as 25%,a figure that led one foundation official to call the commission’s data a “wild-ass guess.”

Markey spokesman Milton thinks that’s enough reason for reform. He called the consumer safety commission numbers a “proxy” for real data that he claims the industry refuses to provide.

“There is no database that is reliable. And there’s no database because there’s no regulation,” he said.

But more regulation,coupled with studies recently undertaken to determine the link between thrill rides and brain injuries,could change the face of amusement parks in the future.

“It’s possible (operators) would back off on thrill rides,” Jensen said.

In what he thinks is a worst-case scenario, Jensen said people eventually might have to sign waivers to go on some rides,or even to get an entry ticket for an amusement park.

Robbins doesn’t think it will come to that, calling it “inconsistent with amusement park philosophy.”

Still, he acknowledged that risk management is the most significant challenge for amusement operators today, with rider responsibility not far behind.

That means more health warnings and rider rules are likely to start popping up at parks. Some parks have already begun to post warnings about the risk of thrill rides for people with aneurysms. And since the recent death at Knott’s in which the rider’s weight may have been a factor, there is speculation that size and weight limits might not be far behind.

But none of that means that virtual reality will ever dominate the amusement park scene.

“People want the thrill to be the real thing,” Falfas said. “Take a look at the American people in general. People are surfing, mountain biking. We’re a society that likes to participate.”

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