News of the horrific, fatal accident that took the lives of four amusement park patrons in Australia, has attracted attention from across the globe. The accident occurred at the popular, major theme park known as Dreamworld. As details regarding the cause of the crash have begun to trickle out, it appears that at least some eyewitnesses are citing certain maintenance issues that may have played a role in causing the crash.
In fact, these early indications of a potential maintenance problem have seemingly been confirmed. A recent document release has revealed that the rapids ride was “not fit for service.” Problems include reports of rust on the ride, cracks in certain ride elements, and improper use of tape to secure certain items. Despite this report, Dreamworld claims that its Thunder Rapids ride had passed an inspection roughly four weeks prior to the accident.
Amusement Park Injury Accident Lawyer Describes the Factors that cause Water Ride Accidents
Thus many people are seeking answers as to why this accident occurred. According to Jeffrey Reiff who was interviewed by NewsTalk ZB, “It’s always horrible when one of these accidents occur. It’s a catastrophe that could have probably been prevented and. It all goes into whether the raft was properly loaded, was [the ride] properly staffed, the timing of the sequence – there’s a lot of factors that have to be looked at.” Mr. Reiff explained that during the course of his practice as a Pennsylvania amusement park injury attorney:
We see a lot of water park accidents here in America and around the world because, many times, they are uncontrollable accidents. There’s a lack of respecting mechanics – if they are not loaded properly or weighted properly or if the water flows are not proper, you have the makings of an accident that can occur.
However, the above captured just a few of the factors that personal injury lawyers, like Mr. Reiff, will routinely investigate following a water park, carnival, or amusement park accident. Mr. Reiff continued to explain some of the other factors that can make a riding accident more likely. He stated that when rafts are not properly spaced or loaded in an appropriate sequential manner then the likelihood for ride vehicle collisions increases significantly.
On all rides, unintended collisions are a risk. However, this is especially dangerous on many thrill rides and water rides. This is due to the fact that, “some of these rides achieve speeds of 40 to 50 km per hour and that’s quite fast. …When you are in the water and there is too much or not enough water and you have an uneven weighting or exceeding weight limitation or the raft is over or under inflated – there’s a lot of variables that go into the mix and there’s often a lack of proper control.”
And this “lack of proper control” is often where the problem comes in. According to Mr. Reiff, the lack of controls and a multitude of variables are often an issue on raft and other water rides because “you often have very minimal backup and safety systems and [the ride’s operation] is left to the discretion of the people loading the ride or operating the ride.” When there is a conveyor belt present, a litany of other safety issues and risks can exist. In this respect, Mr. Reiff notes that “The conveyor belt adds another equation. If that raft hits the conveyor belt at too high of a speed or at not a fast enough speed, and it’s taken out of the water, the balance is interrupted and the raft can tip. I believe that’s what happened here.”
What Should Happen after a Ride Accident and How Should Investigation be Carried Out?
Following an accident involving a theme park ride, “I would suggest a review of the tapes. Most of the parks have video surveillance. I believe that ought to be obtained as soon as possible by the authorities or investigating forensic experts — I’m sure that’s being done. But in some of the cases, we have evaluated, many times tapes surprisingly seem to disappear or they tell us that the cameras were not working…” Needless to say, claims that video recording is not working are often baseless upon additional inquiry.
Attorney Reiff also mentions that investigations are sometimes stymied by park owners and management that want to re-open as soon as possible. “The people operating these parks generally place profitability ahead of safety. We believe that safety should never take a back seat to profitability. And so, many of these parks want to get these rides up right away…but there has to be an independent investigation by either state or government authorities. In the States, we bring in our own experts who are not biased.”
Part of the reason why it is necessary to bring in independent investigators is because, “Many times, we’ll find in a park situation that the park is a big employer in the area. Therefore the government seems to speed up the investigation or cut corners in the investigation realizing that the park brings a lot of money into the area.” Jeff describes that in many cases, government and park officials will say that the ride is fine and the situation is under control, but after conducting an independent investigation, problems, inaccuracies, and safety defects come to light. Thus, whether an accident reconstruction is comprehensive and accurate often comes down to, “who is looking at the case, who is investigating the case, and pretty much a number of variable factors.”
Dreamworld Re-Opening Delayed As Public Backlash Over Ride Fatality Grows
It is important to note that Mr. Reiff ’s predictions regarding park management generally attempting to re-open the park as quickly as possible ring true in this case. Under the guise of a “memorial service” park management, park management had intended to stage a limited re-opening and fundraiser on Friday, October 27, 2016, with a full re-opening slated for Saturday the 28th.
However, these plans have been placed on hold as both officials and family members of the victims have expressed outrage over the park’s plans. Assistant police commissioner, Brian Codd, stated that the area remained a crime scene and police, “…are not going to compromise the speed or thoroughness in order for us to vacate the area.” He stated that the police will take all the time they need to gather evidence and facts.
Following a Ride Accident, Seek a Pennsylvania Amusement Park Injury Lawyer
While nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, the fact that the investigation is being prioritized over re-opening the park should provide at least a little comfort. Hopefully, the investigation will uncover exactly went wrong not only so that the family members of accident victims can seek closure but also so that a similar tragedy never occurs again. If you or a loved one have suffered serious, life altering injuries due to apparent amusement park negligence or carelessness, call the Pennsylvania amusement park accident injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm today at 215-246-9000.