It’s impossible to imagine that a day of fun could turn to tragedy in the blink of an eye. This past weekend, families enjoying an outing at an indoor amusement park watched helplessly as a 3-year-old fell to his death. He had been riding the roller coaster with his family, sitting next to his twin brother. He managed to release the safety harness, stood up and fell.
The boy sustained serious head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene. State inspectors closed the ride following the accident. They were scheduled to conduct a thorough inspection of both the ride and the park within 24 hours of the boy’s death. A preliminary investigation did not turn up any equipment failures, but inspectors said they would focus on mechanical issues.
At the same time, the town where the theme park is located suspended the park’s business license. The park cannot open again until all rides have passed a complete inspection.
While the roller coaster itself does not have a height requirement, the park had height requirements posted at the entrance. Using that chart, the boy was tall enough to ride the coaster.
A very small percentage of amusement park rides end so sadly, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. The IAAPA in partnership with the U.S. National Safety Council has monitored ridership and accidents at fixed-site amusement parks for about 10 years. In 2009, the survey reported that these parks had approximately 280 million guests who safely enjoyed 1.7 billion rides. Of those rides, approximately 1,086 ride-related injuries were reported that year, with just 65 serious injuries. A serious injury requires any kind of overnight treatment at a hospital.
Knowing that the vast majority of 3-year-olds are riding roller coasters safely may provide a modicum of comfort to this boy’s family.
Reuters, “Three-year-old boy falls to his death from rollercoaster,” 04/03/11
International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Amusement Ride Injury Statistics, accessed 04/04/11