The summer of 2016 will, unfortunately, probably be remembered as the year where the consequences of a patchwork system of amusement park accidents, as well as fair, carnival, and waterpark regulation became undeniable. Tragically, numerous life altering injuries and fatalities have been inflicted this summer at fairs, carnivals, and waterparks from coast to coast. While the most high profile accident of the summer is undoubtedly the decapitation that occurred on the Verrückt waterslide, a number of other ride failures have occurred including:
- A defective Ferris wheel car that turned over and caused its occupants to fall approximately 30 feet to the ground.
- A three-year-old boy who was permitted to ride a rollercoaster without a parent who then fell from the car.
- A young girl who was scalped on a carnival ride known as the King’s Crown.
- Defective wiring in a Scrambler ride that electrocuted six park guests.
Two of these accidents occurred in states where ride regulation is, at best, minimal. Potentially contributing to the Kansas waterslide accident is the fact that state law authorizes the use of private inspectors and provides only for random audits. The inspection regime in Tennessee is similar but also accepts inspections that were conducted out of state.
Investigators have now pinned down the cause of the fatal accident on the Verrückt. However, these answers are accompanied by new questions raised regarding a Washington waterpark’s inadequate response to a suspected drowning. The drowning was recently confirmed adding yet another amusement park injury victim to this year’s tally. If you or someone you love was injured or killed in a waterslide accident, contact a Philadelphia wrongful death attorney of The Reiff Law Firm.
Uneven Weight Distribution Blamed in Waterslide Decapitation
Authorities have indicated that ride accident investigators have assessed the evidence collected following the fatal waterslide decapitation. Investigators concluded that the raft that ten-year-old Caleb Shwab rode on was dangerously unbalanced. Caleb rode down the slide with two women. According to numerous reports, one woman weighed 197 pounds and the second weighed 275 pounds. While the raft was within weight capacity requirements, it was loaded such that Caleb was in the front with the two women to his rear.
Due to the significant disparity in weight from the front of the raft to the back of the raft, the boat went airborne while traveling down the slide. When the boat went airborne, investigators believe that Caleb hit his head on the support structure that holds up netting. Investigators indicated that if the weight in the raft had been distributed more uniformly, perhaps by placing Caleb in the middle of the raft between the two woman, the accident would have been unlikely to occur.
Verrückt remains closed. The park has not indicated what steps or safety measures it will implement.
Eyewitnesses Allege that Park was Slow to React During Wave Pool Drowning
Just as we begin to understand the factors that led to the Verrückt ride fatality, a new incident at a Washington state water park wave pool has raised new questions regarding the adequacy of staff and lifeguard training. On Saturday, August 20, 2016, a 32-year-old man drowned at the Wild Waves water park in Federal Way, Washington. A police report indicated that lifeguards found the man’s body at the bottom of the pool “by accident” and eyewitnesses have expressed concern over the park lifeguards’ response to a potential drowning.
According to the police report, Vijayarengan Srinivasan made plans with a friend to jump or slide into a wave pool before the two would meet back up at water’s edge. When the friend reached the shore, he looked for Srinivasan but could not locate him. The friend, apparently unaware if Srinivasan had actually entered the wave pool, then went to check the “rollercoaster area” of the park.
According to news reports, at about 5 p.m. a lifeguard indicated that she thought she saw a body in the pool. However, a search did not turn up a body. Just moments later, a 12-year-old park guest reportedly approached lifeguards saying that she and her friend were positive that they saw a body at the pool’s bottom. This report was allegedly essentially ignored by a first lifeguard who stated that they had already checked and that he would follow-up in 10 or 20 minutes. Then, according to news reports, the girl attempted to inform a second female lifeguard by yelling, “There’s seriously something down there you need to go check.” The second guard apparently gave the girl a thumbs-up and did not take further action.
At around 5:20 p.m., roughly 20 minutes after the first report of a body or “something” at the bottom of the pool a third lifeguard entered the pool to help a park guest retrieve a pair of eyeglasses from the water. While searching for the glasses the third lifeguard found the body of Srinivasan face-up at the bottom of the pool. At roughly 5:30 p.m., the man’s body was removed from the water.
If You Or a Loved One Were Injured on a Roller-Coaster or Water Park
While the exact details regarding this waterpark death are still emerging, news reports have indicated that park guests described the scene as “chaotic.” They claim that lifeguards deliberated about what to do rather than engaging in search efforts. The approximate 30 minutes of lag from when the man entered the pool to the discovery of his body is certainly troubling. However, investigators have yet to attribute a cause to this accident. While investigators work to uncover the factors that contributed to this fatality, the staff of The Reiff Law Firm offers our condolences and best wishes to the family in this difficult time.