Late summer amusement park fun has turned somber due to three recent incidents around the country. A young boy was fatally injured at a water park in Kansas City when he fell from an usually high slide. Three girls were injured on a ferris wheel ride in Tennessee when their car tipped, tossing the occupants onto the ground about 35 feet below. A three year old boy survived a fall out of a popular wooden roller coaster outside Pittsburgh. Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased ten-year old boy and we hope for the full recovery of the injured girls and the little boy. These accidents bring back the national discussion about amusement park safety and its regulation.
CNN and other news agencies report that the young boy who lost his life on the water slide suffered a fatal neck injury. The specific cause of the injury is not yet known. He may have sustained the injury while riding the slide or he may have fallen from the slide. The others who were riding with him were not seriously injured. The slide is said to be the highest in the country and riders can reach 70 mile per hour speeds while riding in the raft down the slide. There are height and weight requirements for the ride which if not followed, can result in serious injury and in this case, a loss of life.
Reports indicate that the roller coaster accident occurred when a three-year old boy was riding with his brother. The coaster is not particularly fast or high by today’s standards, but the boy fell about ten feet and was airlifted to Children’s Hospital, Pittsburgh. He was said to be in critical condition, although conscious. In the case of the roller coaster ride, some parents have expressed concern that a safety restraint is not enough to hold a child in safely and that a seat belt is needed. The park in which the accident occurred is the third oldest in the country and is a historic landmark.
Although amusement parks are a place for fun and are in general safe, accidents occur each year. The parks that are permanent, such as Disneyland and Six Flags are under state and local safety control. The temporary rides that are put up for state or local fairs are under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. However, the CPSC does not have the personnel to inspect these rides across the country.
Many experts have been commenting on these accidents and are seeking closer scrutiny. One study indicates that nearly 95,000 children were taken to emergency rooms over the past 20 years due to amusement park incidents. That is over 4,000 kids a year. Many rides and water park slides are becoming taller and faster. Every year there are injuries and some have called for more uniformity in the regulation of rides and water park structures, both in their design and in their use.
There aren’t many studies on amusement park injury statistics. It is thought by experts that most such accidents are the result of human error. One of the few studies that has been performed determined that the most prevalent type of injury is to the head and neck. Soft-tissue injuries are also relatively common. It might well be that water parks have a higher rate of injury than other types of theme parks.
It is very important that parents pay close attention to the height and weight requirements for rides. Although kids might want to get on a ride, even if they are an inch too short or a pound too light, parents should not try to get them on. Amusement park operators should be responsible for saying no to kids that do not comply with the requirements. The safety belt or safety rail constraints must be properly in place as well and operators should be responsible for ensuring that they are. Parents should try to accompany small children on rides when possible.
Scholle Law is committed to the safety and security of our community. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident of any kind, we are here to help. Contact our law firm for a consultation at no charge. We have served the Atlanta metro area and Gwinnett County for two decades with excellence in legal practice.