Amusement Park Accidents Devastate Victims and Families

Thrill-seekers on a rollercoaster

We have recently seen a number of amusement park accidents and rollercoaster accidents that have resulted in devastating injuries and even fatalities.

One such incident occurred in Melbourne, Australia, where 26-year-old Shylah Rodden suffered a traumatic brain injury among other injuries on Sept. 25 when she stepped onto the track of a rollercoaster at a fair when a passenger-filled car came around the upside-down loop and struck her.

In the horrific ordeal that followed, the rollercoaster dragged Rodden along the track and up an incline. She fell 30 feet from the track to the ground and suffered broken bones and life-threatening injuries to her brain. Her condition has been upgraded from “critical” to “serious” in the last few days. The fair closed the ride for two days to inspect it. The accident occurred when Rodden had just recovered from a serious car accident that happened in January 2021, according to Australian media outlets.

Major Amusement Park Ride Accidents

A number of recent amusement park accidents have raised concerns in the United States. In Florida, Orlando Slingshot, which operated the FreeFall drop tower ride in ICON Park, has said it will remove the ride by demolishing it after 14-year-old Tyre Sampson fell to his death in March. The fatal incident sparked public outrage and demands for the ride to be permanently shut down with the rollout of safety inspections.

Sampson, who was on a football program trip from St. Louis, died after slipping out of his seat on the ride while his safety harness was not properly secured. No date has been set for the ride’s demolition. Sampson’s family has been advocating for the ride to be taken down for several months now. They have also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the ride’s owner, manufacturer, and landlord, saying they were negligent and failed to provide a safe amusement ride.

Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, also announced that they will permanently close the 420-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster coaster after a woman was injured by a metal object that broke off the ride last year. In August 2021, Rachel Hawes was struck in the head by a small metal piece that broke off from a train that was ending its run. Hawes was in the ICU in critical condition with a brain injury after the accident, according to media reports.

Ride Accident Statistics and Trends

According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), which conducts an annual safety survey, the chance of being seriously injured at a U.S. amusement park is one in 15.5 million rides taken. In 2015, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that in 2015 about 37,000 people visited an emergency room after being injured on amusement rides.

This data was collected through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System although these estimates include bounce houses and mechanical bulls in the same category as amusement park rides such as rollercoasters. A 2013 study published in Clinical Pediatrics revealed that nearly 100,000 children were treated for amusement ride-related injuries in the United States between 1990 and 2010 – 33% of which occurred on fixed-site rides. That study concluded that “an improved national system for monitoring injuries involving amusement rides is needed.”

Common Amusement Park Ride Injuries

According to data reviewed by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, here are some of the most common injuries sustained in amusement park accidents:

  • Head and neck injuries
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Whiplash
  • Spinal cord trauma
  • Fractures or broken bones
  • Bumps and bruises
  • Sprains and strains

A review of the data also showed that the most common cause of injuries in amusement parks is falling in, on, or off a ride. Other common causes of injuries include hitting the body on a ride, getting a body part or clothing caught in the ride, getting injured while hopping on or off a ride, and getting struck by a moving or stationary ride.

What Causes Amusement Park or Ride Accidents?

There are a variety of reasons why these accidents occur and many of them happen because of negligence. Here are some of the most causes of these ride accidents:

Mechanical issues: Amusement park rides are often complex pieces of machinery or mechanisms that involve constant inspections. When cables snap, brakes malfunction, or restraints fail, there is an increased risk of an accident and serious injuries.

Structural failures: Most rides are made out of metal and wooden structures. When metals corrode or wood rots, the ride could become structurally compromised.

Operator error: When operators fail to leave enough space between patrons, stop or start rides abruptly or fail to properly restrain riders, a serious injury accident could occur.

Poor design: Some rides are inherently dangerous even with restraints or bars because of the way in which they are designed.

Lack of maintenance: It is important that rides are routinely inspected and maintained. Failure to do so and follow proper protocols could result in a tragic accident.

Who Can Be Held Liable?

There are a number of parties who could be held potentially liable for an amusement park or ride accident including the park’s owner/operator, the ride operator, an employee, a company that maintains the ride, the manufacturer or designer of the attraction, etc. Since so many potential parties are involved, it would be in the best interest of a victim or his or her family to retain the services of an experienced amusement park accident lawyer who can better advise them regarding their legal rights and options.

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