1998 NEWS ARCHIVE

MARCH

  • Girl, 15, killed on Himalaya ride at Texas fair (3/19/98)
  • Investigators in Texas suspect lap bar failure (3/21/98)
  • Carnival operator faced 15 lawsuits since 1985 (3/22/98)
  • "I told y'all it was broke" (3/23/98)
  • Austin police issue search warrant/affidavit (3/24/98)
  • Safety bar broke off from car "at all three points of attachment" (3/24/98)

    APRIL

  • Roller coaster fails in Illinois; riders stranded upside down for hours (4/18/98)
  • Texas accident not the first for Himalaya ride (4/23/98)

    JULY

  • New Jersey teenager killed after ride at closed park (7/25/98)

    AUGUST

  • Boy killed in fall from log flume ride in Minnesota (8/1/98)
  • Jack Rabbit roller coaster derails, crashes; 3 injured (8/5/98)
  • 188-foot steel amusement ride tower collapses, crashes onto adjacent rides (8/10/98)
  • $7.5 million settlement for Massachusetts girl (8/14/98)
  • Girl dies after ride at Mall of America in Minnesota (8/15/98)
  • CPSC urges further safety inspections of mobile amusement rides (8/20/98)
  • Broken harness blamed for bungee ride death in Canada (8/24/98)
  • Child dies in fall from carnival ride (8/30/98)

    SEPTEMBER

  • Roller coaster accident kills a man in California (9/7/98)
  • Arm breaks off of Spider ride five days after inspection; 7 injured (9/26/98)
  • Texas grand jury charges nine with murder (9/29/98)

    OCTOBER

  • Settlement in fatal Timber Wolf accident (10/15/98)
  • Three cars collide on North Carolina roller coaster; 3 injured (10/17/98)
  • Bungee rides close in New Jersey; designer, manufacturer, inspector fined (10/29/98)

    DECEMBER

  • One dead, three injured after Disneyland accidents (12/24/98)


  • Girl, 15, killed on Himalaya ride at Texas fair

    (Thursday, March 19, 1998) - At the Austin-Travis County Livestock Show & Rodeo in Texas, a 15-year-old girl was flung from a Himalaya ride and hit a wall which borders the ride platform. She died from head, neck, and chest injuries at the scene. Two other occupants of the girl's car were treated at a local hospital and released. The carnival rides, operated by B&B Amusements of Yuma, Arizona, were allegedly inspected before the fair opened.

    The cause of the accident is under investigation. It is unlikely that rider misconduct caused this accident. The ride is closed indefinitely.

    A rodeo spokesman maintains that the rides operating at the fair are safe.

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    Investigators in Texas suspect lap bar failure

    (Saturday, March 21, 1998) - Police investigating the cause of Thursday night's carnival fatality in Texas are focusing on the lap bar of the car in which a 15-year-old girl was riding when she was suddenly ejected from the ride.

    Investigators called to the site to examine the ride say that the lap bar, which snaps into place to restrain passengers, either wasn't closed properly by the ride operator, or was opened by a rider after it had been locked. They did say, however, that opening the bar was not easy, and it would have been difficult for a rider to release the latch.

    The Himalaya, built in 1984, was inspected on March 9th. Four of the cars were tagged and could not be used because of safety problems with the lap bar latches. The victim's car was not one of these cars. No problems with the latch mechanism were found on the victim's car.

    The investigation is not expected to end until next week.

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    Carnival operator faced 15 lawsuits since 1985

    (Sunday, March 22, 1998) - B&B Amusements of Yuma, Arizona, the owner and operator of the Himalaya ride which killed a girl on Thursday night, was sued at least 15 times since 1985 by patrons who were injured on rides the company operated. While the company was not found to be negligent in all of these cases, it cannot completely escape from its questionable safety record.

    The Cyclone rollercoaster formerly operated by B&B injured 14 people at the Arizona State Fair in Phoenix in 1991, and seven people at the same fair in 1992. Eight more people were injured on this same ride in 1993. Other accidents occurred on the company's Tilt-A-Whirl, Flying Bobs, and Gravitron rides.

    The company's accidents have also involved employees. One employee was crushed to death in 1995 while assembling an amusement ride, and another was fatally electrocuted while working on the Gravitron ride in 1994. An attorney representing B&B said that no rider has been killed on a B&B ride since the 1980s. He would not comment about the company's safety record.

    In 1996, the Orange County State Fair of California dropped B&B as its operator because of the many accidents that occurred on its Cyclone rollercoaster. B&B later sold the Cyclone to an amusement park in Mexico after it had injured at least 38 patrons.

    The Texas Department of Insurance and local police are still investigating the cause of Thursday night's accident. They are expected to finish sometime next week. B&B will then conduct its own investigation.

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    "I told y'all it was broke"

    (Monday, March 23, 1998) - A carnival worker who was present at Thursday night's accident in Texas says that the carnival operator, B&B Amusements of Yuma, Arizona, is trying to blame the accident on the 15-year-old victim. However, the employee reports that the Himalaya had experienced problems during the day on Thursday, and that one rider even complained after he rode in the same car from which the victim was later thrown to her death.

    The employee told an Austin news station that the rider approached him after the accident and said "I told y'all it was broke."

    Meanwhile, a lawyer for B&B says that the ride was in good operating condition at the time of Thursday's accident, and that the company is waiting to conduct its own investigation of the ride before it makes any conclusions. Police have exclusive access to the ride while they continue their own investigation.

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    Investigators: safety bar broke off from car "at all three points of attachment"

    (Tuesday, March 24, 1998) - Police investigating Thursday night's carnival fatality in Austin say that the victim's lap bar broke off from her car during the ride, and was later found lying underneath the victim. The "cotter keys," or metal pins that are designed to secure the lap bar to the car, were found to be broken, and some of the broken pieces of the pins were lying on the floor of the victim's car after the accident. The ride operator told police that the cotter pins used on the Himalaya may have been too small.

    Police, who have impounded the ride, also say that many customers had complained throughout the day about the operation of the ride. One rider said that her lap bar came loose while she was riding the Himalaya with a friend on Thursday night, and that she and her friend had to cling to the frame of her car until the ride stopped. She claims that they called out to operators to stop the ride, but they did not respond. The girl approached the ride operator after the ride had ended and told him that her lap bar was broken. The operator examined the bar, but then reloaded the ride with passengers and continued to operate the ride.

    Police say that the physical evidence and eyewitness testimony could form the foundation for a criminally negligent homicide case, punishable in Texas by a state jail term of 180 days to 2 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.

    In the affidavit, Detective Mark Gilchrest said that several riders had called him after the accident telling him that the Himalaya experienced safety problems during the day on Thursday, and that ride operators were not checking to make sure that restraining bar latches were secured before they operated the ride. He also said that some riders told him that the ride was being operated too fast. Gilchrest also noted his observation that the ride appeared to be "poorly maintained," and that he had reason to believe that the ride was being operated at an "unsafe" speed.

    Robert Powell, the attorney representing B&B Amusements, says that the affidavit is hearsay, and that no conclusions about the operation or safety of the ride should be drawn from it. B&B insists that the ride was in good operating condition at the time of the accident.

    Investigators from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission have been called to the scene, and are expected to examine the ride today.

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    Austin police issue search warrant/affidavit

    3/24/98
    AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT
    AFFIDAVIT/SEARCH WARRANT

    THE AFFIANT HAS PROBABLE CAUSE FOR SAID BELIEF BY REASON OF THE FOLLOWING FACTS: ON MARCH 19, 1998 ABOUT 7:20PM, LESLIE AMANDA LANE, A WHITE FEMALE, DATE OF BIRTH - 05/06/82, WAS RIDING THE ABOVE DESCRIBED CARNIVAL AMUSEMENT RIDE NAMED "THE HIMALAYA". THE RIDE CONSISTS OF SEVERAL "CARS" OR SEATS THAT ARE ATTACHED TO EACH OTHER AND TRAVEL ALONG A TRACK IN A CONSTANT CIRCLE. THE RIDE TRAVELS AT A RATE OF SPEED SUFFICIENT ENOUGH TO CREATE A SUBSTANTIAL CENTRIFUGAL FORCE. PERSONS RIDING IN THE "CARS" ARE RESTRAINED BY A SINGLE METAL LAP BAR THAT IS ATTACHED TO THE BOTTOM OF THE CAR BY A COTTER PIN ON EACH SIDE AND A LOCKING DEVICE ON THE TOP LEFT SIDE OF THE CAR. DURING THE OPERATION OF THE RIDE THE METAL LAP BAR RESTRAINT CAME LOOSE FROM THE CAR AT ALL THREE POINTS OF ATTACHMENT DESCRIBED ABOVE. LANE WAS EJECTED FROM THE CAR AND STRUCK THE METAL WALL WHICH ENCLOSES THE RIDE. LANE'S SKULL WAS FRACTURED BY THE IMPACT. LANE DIED AS A RESULT OF INJURY. UNIFORMED PATROL OFFICERS OF THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT WERE CALLED TO THE SCENE. UPON THEIR ARRIVAL AND DETERMINATION THAT A DEATH HAD OCCURRED, THE OFFICERS CONTACTED THE AFFIANT, A DETECTIVE WITH THE HOMICIDE DIVISION OF THE AUSTIN POLICE DEPARTMENT, WHO RESPONDED TO THE SCENE. AFFIANT DETERMINED THAT THERE WERE SEVERAL WITNESSES TO THE INCIDENT. SWORN STATEMENTS WERE TAKEN FROM THE WITNESSES. WITNESS, LEMARCUS HENDERSON, GAVE A STATEMENT TO DETECTIVE WAYNE DEMOSS AND STATED THAT HE WAS ON THE RIDE AT THE TIME OF THE INCIDENT. HENDERSON STATED THAT HE HEARD THE RIDE OPERATOR ASK THE PERSONS ON THE RIDE IF THEY WANTED TO GO FASTER. EVERYONE STARTED TO SCREAM AND THE RIDE STARTED TO GO FASTER. HENDERSON STATED THAT AFTER THE RIDE INCREASED SPEED, HE HEARD A LOUD NOISE THAT SOUNDED LIKE A GUNSHOT. HENDERSON SAW THE GIRL ON THE GROUND AND THE RIDE OPERATOR SLOWED THE RIDE DOWN. WITNESS, JOSHUA JOHNSON, THE RIDE CONTROL OPERATOR AT THE INCIDENT, GAVE A STATEMENT TO DETECTIVE M. GONZALES AND STATED THAT HE ASKED THE RIDERS IF THEY WANTED TO GO FASTER. HE STATED THAT HE WAS SLOWING THE RIDE DOWN WHEN HE ASKED THAT QUESTION. JOHNSON SAID THAT HE SAW TWO GIRLS GET THROWN FROM THE RIDE AND HIT THE BACK WALL. JOHNSON SAID THAT THE LAP BAR WAS UNDER THE GIRL ON THE GROUND. JOHNSON SAID THAT THE COTTER KEYS THAT HOLD THE LAP BAR IN THE CAR MAY HAVE BEEN TOO SMALL FOR THE WEIGHT OF THE PASSENGERS IN THE CAR. JOHNSON STATED THAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO USE 3/16TH SIZE COTTER KEYS BUT SOMETIMES THEY USE SMALLER ONES BECAUSE SOME OF THE HOLES THE KEYS GO IN ARE NOT BIG ENOUGH FOR 3/16TH KEYS. WITNESS, DANIEL TUCKER, WHO WAS WORKING ON THE RIDE AT THE TIME OF THE INCIDENT, GAVE A STATEMENT TO DETECTIVE WAYNE DEMOSS. TUCKER STATED THAT HE WAS WORKING THE EMERGENCY BREAK WHEN HE HEARD TWO LOUD BANGS. HE SAW TWO GIRLS AND A LITTLE BOY BY THE SCENERY WALL. TUCKER STATED THAT LAP BAR WAS ON THE GROUND NEAR THE TWO GIRLS. WITNESS, ERIN THOMPSON, GAVE A STATEMENT TO DETECTIVE DEMOSS THAT SHE RODE THE HIMALAYA RIDE SHORTLY BEFORE THE INCIDENT. THOMPSON STATED THAT DURING THE TIME THAT SHE WAS ON THE RIDE THE LAP BAR BROKE OFF OF THE CAR AT THE BOTTOM CAUSING THE LAP BAR TO LIFT UP. THOMPSON STATED THAT SHE KEPT FROM BEING THROWN FROM THE CAR BY HOLDING ON TO PART OF THE SEAT FRAME. THOMPSON STATED THAT SHE WAS IN THE CAR WITH A FRIEND, BILLY, AND THAT BILLY WAS YELLING AT THE RIDE OPERATORS THAT THE LAP BAR WAS BROKEN BUT THEY DID NOT STOP THE RIDE. AFTER THE RIDE DID STOP, THOMPSON STATED THAT SHE TOLD ONE OF THE OPERATORS THAT THE LAP BAR WAS BROKEN. THE OPERATOR LOOKED AT THE BAR. THOMPSON STATED THAT THE RIDE WAS LOADED FOR THE NEXT TURN AND IT CONTINUED TO OPERATE. AFFIANT PERSONALLY OBSERVED THE CAR, CAR NUMBER 19, THAT LANE WAS RIDING IN WHEN SHE WAS THROWN FROM THE RIDE. THE COTTER PINS THAT KEEP THE LAP BAR ATTACHED TO THE BOTTOM OF THE CAR SHEARED OFF. PIECES OF A COTTER PIN WERE VISIBLE ON THE FLOOR OF THE CAR. THE LOCKING DEVICE AT THE TOP OF THE CAR APPEARED TO BE IN PLACE. THE LAP BAR HAD BEEN EJECTED FROM CAR WITH LANE. AFFIANT PERSONALLY OBSERVED SEVERAL CARS ON THE RIDE HAD THE LAP BAR TAPED CLOSED. AFFIANT WAS TOLD BY THE RIDE OPERATORS THAT THIS WAS DONE WHEN A PARTICULAR CAR HAD SOME PROBLEM THAT PREVENTED ITS USE. AFFIANT ALSO OBSERVED THE GENERAL CONDITION OF THE RIDE TO BE POORLY MAINTAINED. AFFIANT RECEIVED SEVERAL CALLS FROM PERSONS STATING THAT THE HIMALAYA HAD SAFETY PROBLEMS WHEN THEY RODE THE RIDE THAT DAY. SEVERAL OF THE CALLERS STATED THAT THE RIDE WAS BEING RUN TOO FAST. OTHERS CITED PROBLEMS WITH THE RIDE OPERATORS NOT CHECKING THE LAP BARS PRIOR TO THE RIDE STARTING. AFFIANT HAS REASON TO BELIEVE THAT THE RIDE OPERATORS AND OWNERS SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWARE OF THE SAFETY PROBLEMS ON THE RIDE AS THEY WERE ADVISED OF THE PROBLEMS PRIOR TO THIS INCIDENT. AFFIANT HAS REASON TO BELIEVE FROM THE STATEMENTS OF THE WITNESSES THAT THE RIDE WAS BEING OPERATED AT A SPEED WHICH WAS UNSAFE. AFFIANT HAS REASON TO BELIEVE FROM PERSONAL OBSERVATION THAT THE PHYSICAL EQUIPMENT ON THIS RIDE WAS NOT SUFFICIENT TO PROVIDE ADEQUATE RESTRAINT FOR THE PERSONS RIDING IN IT. AFFIANT HAS REASON TO BELIEVE FROM THE STATEMENT OF THE RIDE OPERATOR THAT THE USE OF COTTER PINS THAT WERE TOO SMALL TO KEEP THE LAP BAR IN PLACE CREATED AN UNSAFE RESTRAINT SYSTEM AND THAT THIS WAS KNOWN BY THE OPERATORS OF THE HIMALAYA RIDE PRIOR TO THIS INCIDENT. AFFIANT REQUESTED THAT A QUALIFIED INSPECTOR BE CONTACTED TO ASSIST IN DETERMINING THE CAUSE OF THE RESTRAINT FAILURE. THE ENTIRE RIDE MUST BE KEPT IN PLACE AND AS IT WAS WHEN THE INCIDENT OCCURRED FOR THE ENGINEERS AND INSPECTORS TO PERFORM THE NECESSARY INSPECTIONS AND TESTS TO MAKE THAT DETERMINATION. AFFIANT BELIEVES THAT THE STRUCTURAL, MECHANICAL, ELECTRICAL AND PHYSICAL PARTS AND PIECES OF THE HIMALAYA RIDE MAY CONSTITUTE EVIDENCE NECESSARY IN DETERMINING IF THE RESTRAINT SYSTEM FAILURE IN CAR NUMBER 19 ON THE HIMALAYA RIDE CONTRIBUTED TO THE DEATH OF LESLIE AMANDA LANE AND WHETHER OR NOT THE OWNERS AND OPERATORS OF THE HIMALAYA RIDE OUGHT TO HAVE BEEN AWARE OF UNSAFE OPERATIONS OR EQUIPMENT. WHEREAS, AFFIANT ASKS FOR THE ISSUANCE OF A WARRANT THAT WILL AUTHORIZE AFFIANT TO SEARCH THE ABOVE DESCRIBED PLACE AND SEIZE THE ABOVE DESCRIBED PROPERTY.

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    Roller coaster fails in Illinois; riders stranded upside down for hours

    (Saturday, April 18, 1998) - At Six Flags Great America Theme Park in Gurnee, Illinois, 23 riders on the Demon roller coaster were left stranded upside-down after the train in which they were riding stopped in the middle of a vertical loop. Firefighters used a cherry picker to bring the passengers to safety. Some riders were stuck for nearly three hours. Four passengers were treated at local hospitals and released.

    Investigators concluded that the accident was caused by mechanical failure. The accident happened when a wheel that runs along the inside of the track broke off from the axle of the last car after a nut loosened. The ride's safety systems engaged, preventing the train from derailing.

    The park has installed a new safety mechanism to the trains.

    In 1986, 3 people were killed when a similar malfunction on a roller coaster in Canada caused a coaster train to derail.


    Texas accident not the first for Himalaya ride

    (Thursday, April 23, 1998) - The same Himalaya amusement ride that killed a girl in Austin, Texas last month has a history of safety problems in California. Safety officials there say that inspectors found problems with the ride's safety bars and latches on a number of occasions. In 1991, an accident on the Himalaya seriously injured two women at a fair in California. Records of that accident indicate that one woman was thrown from the ride because of problems with the pins that attached the safety bar to the floor of the car. Police in Austin say that last month's accident happened because the victim's safety bar broke "at all three points of attachment." They report that the safety bar would not have broke if proper pins were used to attach it to the car.

    At least two other accidents in which riders were thrown from their cars on Himalayas occured in Florida and Missouri. The manufacturer of these rides, Reverchon S.A. Industries of France, has made no comment on any of the incidents.

    An attorney for B&B Amusements, owners of the troubled Himalaya ride, suggests that the safety concerns noted by inspectors in California were results of general wear and tear on the machinery, and that no connection should be made to those incidents and the fatal incident in Texas.

    Austin police report that the owners of the Himalaya ride knew of the ride's defects while they operated it at the Texas fair.

    While the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission continues its investigation of the Texas accident, it has released a safety alert, warning inspectors and operators of potential dangers of Reverchon Himalaya rides. The warning is based on the findings of the Austin Police Department. It is expected that the Commission will release another warning when it has finished its own investigation.

    Austin police have seized three of the Himalaya's cars and one safety bar as evidence, but have returned the rest of the ride to its owners. Police are investigating the accident as a case of criminally negligent homicide.

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    New Jersey teenager killed after ride at closed park

    (Saturday, July 25, 1998) - A teenager suffered fatal injuries after he entered a closed amusement park to ride down a slide. The 19-year-old victim suffered a lacerated liver and ultimately bled to death. The incident happened at Florida Amusements in Asbury Park, New Jersey, a temporary park built for the summer season. The victim told rescue workers that his stomach hit a metal chain which was anchored across the slide on his way down.


    Boy killed in fall from log flume ride in Minnesota

    (Saturday, August 1, 1998) - A twelve year old boy was killed after he fell from the Paul Bunyan Log Chute flume ride at Knott's Camp Snoopy Theme Park at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Apparently, the boy began to panic as his boat neared the top of the chute. He reached outside of the boat to grab a railing. The ride operator stopped the ride, but the boat had already begun its descent. The boy lost his grip of the railing and fell 30-40 feet to the base of the hill. He struck his head several times on landscaping rocks.

    The ride is manufactured by O.D. Hopkins Associates, Inc. of Contoocook, New Hampshire. Ride inspectors concluded that the ride was in good operating condition at the time of the accident and is "safe." Flume rides are generally not equipped with seat belts or restraint mechanisms.

    The accident marks the first fatality in the park's six year history.


    Jack Rabbit roller coaster derails, crashes; 3 injured

    (Wednesday, August 5, 1998) - At Clementon Lake Amusement Park in Clementon, New Jersey, three people were injured while riding the Jack Rabbit roller coaster after their train derailed and crashed into the park's management office. Officials claim that the ride operator planned to allow the train to run more than one circuit, so he disengaged the automatic brakes and allowed the train to pass through three sets of brakes, but forgot to slow the train manually as it rounded an area of track near the office building. The train was going too fast for the turn, and derailed.

    The 28-year-old operator was fired, arrested, and charged with violating a public health and safety law. He faces $1,000 and three years in prison if found guilty.

    The operator claims that he was not planning to let the train make a second circuit, and that it was impossible for the operator of the ride to disengage the brake system of the Jack Rabbit.

    The three victims, all riding in the first car of the train, were treated at a local hospital and later released.

    According to the park's former ride director, many employees had complained to management about the problems with the ride's brakes. Operators and patrons complained that the cars would often pass through the brakes and come to a stop past the normal point of unloading, sometimes up to several times a day, leaving the operator no choice but to let the train make another circuit so that the passengers could be unloaded properly. Park officials confirmed that they had received such complaints, but that the ride was inspected by park maintenance workers in response to each complaint, and that no evidence of mechanical error had been found. Park management blamed ride operators for such incidents.

    As a result of the park's response to the situation, nearly all of the park's ride supervisors and managers have quit their jobs, in addition to others including ride operators, security employees, and games managers.

    The ride passed a park safety inspection after the accident. Clementon police also found the ride to be in safe operating condition.

    The Jack Rabbit is the oldest operating roller coaster in the country.


    188-foot steel amusement ride tower collapses, crashes onto adjacent rides

    (Sunday, August 10, 1998) - At Steel Pier Amusement Park in Atlantic City, New Jersey, four children were injured after an amusement ride tower collapsed onto the bumper car ride which they were riding. The 188-foot high steel structure was one of two towers which constituted Steel Fear, a ride which uses bungee chords to propel riders skyward. Although bungee rides have been banned in New Jersey, this type of ride, also known as the Slingshot, is known as an inverted accelerator bungee ride, which means that the bungee chords are stretched and released, propelling riders upward until they freefall back down and ultimately bounce in mid-air until the ride has stopped.

    Two passengers were boarding the ride as the tower collapsed. They were not injured in the accident. An unoccupied Tilt-A-Whirl ride was also damaged in the crash.

    A metallurgical engineer concluded that the welded metal of the carbon steel tower did not adhere to the metal forming the base of the tower. State investigators concurred with his finding.

    More than 10,000 people had ridden Steel Fear since it first opened on Memorial Day weekend this year. The defect existed thoughout this entire time.

    The park's general manager claimed that the ride had been inspected daily, and that some parts of the ride were inspected up to four times each day.

    The ride was manufactured by Rides 'R Us of Seymour, Tennessee.

    This type of ride is responsible for at least one other accident in which one of the bungee cords disengaged from one tower, sending the car crashing into the other tower. It is not known whether any serious injuries were sustained in that accident.


    $7.5 million settlement for Massachusetts girl

    (Friday, August 14, 1998) - Lawyers for a nine year old girl have settled out of court with Zamperla, Inc. and Bonkers 19 Amusement Park, after those companies agreed to pay $7.5 million for injuries the child sustained while riding a Mini-Himalaya ride at the Bonkers 19 indoor amusement facility in Weymouth, Massachusetts in 1996.

    The accident occurred when the child's head was pulled through the fiberglass seat and into a motor, which was located directly behind the girl's car. As the motor continued to operate, her hair was torn from her head, along with the right side of her scalp. The girl has undergone 4 surgeries since the accident, and is left with a scar on top of her head, nearly 10 inches long and 3 inches wide.

    The ride was distributed by Zamperla, Inc.

    Bonkers 19 closed in October of 1996 as a result of the bad publicity it received after this accident, which occurred on September 14, 1996, and another accident which happened on the same ride three months earlier. On June 22, 1996, a five year old girl was injured when her foot and left ankle scraped against the ride's track after the sixteen year old operator started the ride without notice. Stitches were required to close the wound she sustained. A settlement in that case is being negotiated.

    Massachusetts state officials said that the park operated for months without a state permit, and that the use of a 16-year-old ride operator is in violation of state law.


    Girl dies after ride at Mall of America in Minnesota

    (Saturday, August 15, 1998) - An 8-year-old girl died after riding the Screaming Yellow Eagle at Knott's Camp Snoopy theme park at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. The girl had a five-year history of heart problems, and died as a result of a heart attack.


    CPSC urges further safety inspections of mobile amusement rides

    (Thursday, August 20, 1998) - Following an in-depth investigation into what caused a Reverchon Himalaya ride to eject three riders at a Texas rodeo, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has issued additional guidelines to ensure riders' safety. One rider was killed and two others were seriously injured when the Himalaya's lap bar failed on March 19 in Austin, Texas.

    Since the incident, CPSC has issued three safety alerts to states for inspection of the ride in critical areas. CPSC is now asking ride operators and inspectors to check eight specific components, including fastener pins, rubber shock absorbers and center spindles. About 25 Himalaya rides operate in the United States at both mobile carnivals and fixed-site parks. Reverchon manufactured the ride in 1984.

    In a separate action, as a precautionary measure, CPSC also is urging all states to immediately inspect the mobile amusement rides known as Ranger, Kamikaze, or Hi-Flyer, in accordance with the manufacturer's recently issued safety bulletin. California Ride Safety Officials have discovered severe corrosion on some of the rides' shoulder restraints. If the shoulder restraint were to fail, riders could be severely injured or killed. There have been no reported incidents with these rides. About 17 Ranger, Kamikaze, and Hi-Flyer rides operate in the United States at both mobile carnivals and fixed-site parks. FarFabbri of Italy manufactured these rides from 1988 to 1992.

    While CPSC has jurisdiction over the mobile rides that move from place to place, states and local communities are responsible for inspections and oversight. State safety inspectors will work with CPSC to ensure the rides operate safely.

    While most states currently have some mandatory regulations or inspection program to ensure ride safety, the following states have no regulations and do not require that rides be inspected for safety: Alabama, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah and Vermont. The following states have insurance company or other private inspections, but do not require inspections by state or local regulators: Arizona, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas.

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    Broken harness blamed for bungee ride death in Canada

    (Monday, August 24, 1998) - At the Central Canada Exhibition grounds in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, a 21-year-old man was killed after he fell over 100 feet from mid-air to pavement. The accident happened on a reverse-bungee ride called the Rocket Launcher. The man was launched over 130 feet straight up into midair, and then fell to the pavement after the harness, which attached the bungee cord to the victim, disengaged.

    It is the first death at the exhibition in more than 40 years.

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    Child dies in fall from carnival ride

    (Sunday, August 30, 1998) - A 14-month-old boy was fatally injured at a carnival at Rojas-Pierce Park in Mendota, California after he fell from his seat on a kiddie train ride. The child fell between two cars, landing on the ride's track, and was subsequently struck by a trailing car. The child sustained head and internal injuries. Deputies and Paramedics rendered first aid at the scene. The boy was transported to University Medical Center, where he later died from his injuries. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

    The Fresno County Sheriff's Department is investigating the incident as a questionable death. The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration will conduct its own investigation.


    Roller coaster accident kills a man in California

    (Monday, September 7, 1998) - At Paramount's Great America Theme Park in Santa Clara, California, a 24-year-old man was killed after he was struck in the head by the foot of a passenger riding a roller coaster train. The victim entered a fenced area underneath the track of the Top Gun roller coaster to retrieve his wife's hat which she had lost while riding the same ride earlier that day. The area which the man entered was a restricted area. "Do Not Enter" signs were posted around the perimeter of the ride, however the man did not understand English.

    The passenger whose foot struck the man, a 28-year-old woman, broke her right leg and was hospitalized.

    The victim's family has hired a lawyer, and will explore legal action against the park.

    A similar accident occurred in Wildwood, New Jersey in 1995. A maintenance worker was killed when the foot of a passenger riding the Great Nor'Easter roller coaster struck him as he was walking underneath the ride's track. The Top Gun and Nor'Easter roller coasters feature cars which hang from an overhead track. Riders' legs hang below them during the entire course of the ride.


    Arm breaks off Spider ride five days after inspection; 7 injured

    (Saturday, September 26, 1998) - At the Lee County Fair in Sanford, North Carolina, seven people suffered minor injuries when an arm of a Spider ride broke off and crashed to the ground while the ride was operating. The Spider amusement ride, operated by Carr Amusements, features whirling cars attached to arms which ascend and descend as they rotate around the base. Firefighters used a ladder to unload the passengers left in the other cars.

    The ride had passed a state inspection just five days earlier.

    The North Carolina Department of Labor is investigating the cause of the malfunction. The ride will be sent to a lab where its welding and metal fatigue will be checked.

    In 1988, a seventeen year old girl was killed in a similar accident after a Monster ride malfunctioned at the Broward County Fair in Florida. The ride is similar to the Spider, however, it holds two additional cars on the end of its six arms. The arm carrying the victim's car snapped and, during its ten-foot fall to the ground, an adjacent arm, which was still whirling, crashed into the victim's car. The victim was struck in the back of the head. Six other riders were rushed to local hospitals, most of whom were treated for minor injuries.


    Texas grand jury charges nine with murder

    (Tuesday, September 29, 1998) - Travis County grand jurors indicted nine people for the death of a 15-year-old girl who was killed in a carnival ride accident at the Austin-Travis County Livestock Show and Rodeo in March. Charged with murder are: Robert Dale Merten Sr., Shara Merten, and Robert Merten II (owners of B&B Amusements of Yuma, Arizona); Jeff Campbell and Ottis Frashure (maintenance workers for B&B Amusements); Daniel Tucker and Joshua Johnson (Himalaya operators for B&B Amusements); Robert Gill (owner of Bob Gill & Associates of Florida, hired to inspect the Himalaya ride); and Joe Culver (ride inspector for Bob Gill & Associates).

    The indictments state that all nine parties "knowingly and intentionally" caused the death of the victim. The grand jury concluded that the ride was operated faster than the specifications set forth by the ride's manufacturer, that the lap bar was not properly fastened to the car, that the safety latch was inadequate, that the ride had not been adequately inspected, and that the owners and operators of the ride allowed it to continue to operate even after they had been notified that parts of the ride were broken.

    The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission inspected the ride earlier this year, after which they concluded that the car in which the victim was riding was defective.

    Austin police also conducted their own investigation of the ride, and concluded that the girl's safety bar broke off from her car "at all three points of attachment." The lap bar was later found underneath the body of the victim. Police also concluded that "the use of cotter pins that were too small to keep the lap bar in place created an unsafe restraint system," and that "this was known by operators of the Himalaya ride prior to the incident."

    "I'm totally shocked; this is totally ridiculous," says John Yeager, attorney for the Mertens.

    Rosemary Lehmberg, first assistant district attorney for Travis County was pleased with the indictments.

    "The grand jury believes that a company like B&B cannot come into this community and, for profit, expose our citizens to the hazards of that ride."

    Those charged face 5 to 99 years in prison if convicted.

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    Settlement in fatal Timber Wolf accident

    (Thursday, October 15, 1998) - The mother of a 14-year-old girl who died in a fall from the Timber Wolf roller coaster at Worlds of Fun amusement park in Kansas City, Missouri in 1995 received $200,000 in a settlement reached with the Philadelphia Tobaggan Company, makers of the coaster, and Hunt Midwest Entertainment, former owners of Worlds of Fun.


    Three cars collide on North Carolina roller coaster; 3 injured

    (Saturday, October 17, 1998) - At the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, North Carolina, three people suffered minor injuries after three cars collided on the Zyklon roller coaster. The accident happened when the wheel bearings of one car seized up, causing the car to come to a stop before it was supposed to. Two cars rammed into it from behind.

    Zyklon is owned and operated by Carol Stream Amusements.

    State inspectors examined the ride after the accident and deemed it safe after the defective car had been removed. The ride re-opened within an hour of the accident and operated wihout incident on Sunday. Inspectors advised ride operators to leave a greater distance between each car during the ride to help prevent future accidents.


    Bungee rides close in New Jersey; designer, manufacturer, inspector fined

    (Thursday, October 29, 1998) - Bungee rides in Atlantic City, Wildwood, Seaside Heights, and Ocean City are coming down. The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs has ordered several parks to dismantle their inverse bungee amusement rides manufactured by Rides R' Us of Seymour, Tennessee. The action comes in response to an accident in August at Steel Pier amusement park in Atlantic City in which one of the rides collapsed, crashed onto a bumper car ride, and injured 4 people. The accident was blamed on faulty welding.

    The designer and manufacturer of the ride were fined $20,000 each. The engineer who inspected the ride at Atlantic City was also fined $20,000.

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    One dead, three injured after Disneyland accidents

    (Thursday, December 24, 1998) - A thirty-three year old man is dead and two women sustained serious injuries after an accident on the Columbia ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. According to the man's autopsy, the accident happened as the Columbia, a full-size replica of an old American sailing ship, was docking. Apparently the ship passed its normal docking point, but before the helmsman reversed the ship back into position, an employee had already lashed the ship to the dock. The mooring rope, which was designed to break under so much tension, tore off a foot-long metal cleat from the ship's hull, sending it flying into a crowd. The man and his forty-three year old wife were struck in the head and the employee sustained serious injuries to her legs.

    All three victims were hospitalized. The man was removed from life support about 11 hours after the accident. His wife survived, but suffered serious injury and underwent plastic surgery due to cuts to her face. The employee was also expected to make a full recovery.

    The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating further.

    The fatality was the park's first since 1984.

    In a separate accident, a 4-year-old boy suffered minor injuries after he fell from the park's carousel. He was also taken to a local hospital for observation.

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