Danger Lurks Throughout American Amusement Parks

The stories have been horrific. A ten-year-old boy was killed on August 7 during a ride on the world’s tallest waterslide. Caleb Schwab was sadly decapitated on the Verruckt raft ride at the Schlitterbahn WaterPark in Kansas City, Kansas. That same day, two riders were injured when a launch cable detached at the Top Thrill Dragster rider in Cedar Point, Ohio.

The next day, three girls were injured after falling approximately 30 feet from a Ferris wheel at a county fair in eastern Tennessee. One of the girls, who is only six-years-old, was left with a traumatic brain injury.

In another incident, 11-year-old Elizabeth Gilreath was on the spinning “King’s Crown” ride when her hair got caught in the machinery causing her to lose part of her scalp. After five surgeries, she is said to be making progress.  Three days later, in the fourth amusement park accident, a three-year-old boy fell out of a roller coaster at Idlewild and SoakZone, a Pennsylvania amusement park.

How do you know if you and your children are safe at American amusement parks? You don’t.

Rides are regulated through a maze of state laws and some states have no regulation at all. The Consumer Product Safety Commission lost its power to oversee parks in 1981, when Congress passed a “roller coaster loophole.” Legislation says “fixed site” amusement parks don’t count as consumer products.  Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts is one of the few public officials pushing for a bill for Consumer Products to once gain have jurisdiction over the industry. The bill has died in six consecutive Congresses.

“It’s an issue that has simply never risen to the top of the agenda in Congress, in spite of these tragic accidents,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who co-sponsored the legislation, in an article that appeared in The Daily News.  New York requires regular inspections from a government agency and allows the state governments to investigate accidents.  The only group said to be monitoring park injuries on a national scale is the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) — a trade group that openly opposes federal regulation.

A 2013 study by the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that, from 1990 to 2010, 92,885 children under 18 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for amusement ride-related injuries – or an average of 4,423 per year. More than 70 percent of those injuries were in the summer months of May through September.

The following guidelines should be observed when visiting an amusement park:

  • Obey listed age, height, weight and health restrictions
  • Observe all posted ride safety rules
  • Follow all special seating and loading instructions
  • Always use seat belts and safety bars
  • Keep arms, hands, legs and feet inside the ride
  • Secure all loose articles
  • Ensure long hair is safely secured
  • Remain seated in ride until it comes to a complete stop
  • Trust your instincts

While only the most horrific injuries suffered at amusement parks make the news, less severe injuries happen regularly at amusement parks and carnivals, and often result from inexperienced ride operators, faulty equipment, and dangerous tripping hazards. Caution should be used when attending any such location or event.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in an amusement park accident, contact Rosenberg & Gluck, personal injury attorneys, for a free, confidential legal consultation to learn more about your options.