At The Reiff Law Firm, Pennsylvanians, the news media, legislators from an array of states, and others have come to rely on our experience and guidance when assessing amusement park, fair, and carnival accidents. In fact, our attorneys and investigators have been called upon for insight and perspective by the media for years regarding the state of amusement park regulation. For instance, following the hayride accident that killed one and injured more than 20 riders in late 2014, our injury lawyers were featured in the national press and Philadelphia personal injury attorney Jeffrey Reiff worked with the Maine legislature on hay ride and ride-safety regulation.
The week of August 7th, 2016, unfortunately, produced three serious amusement park accidents over the course of four days. Over the weekend, lawyers and investigators from our office offered insight and analysis regarding the tragic fatal accident that occurred on Schlitterbahn’s Verrückt water slide and the young boy who fell from the Rollo Coaster located at Pennsylvania’s Idlewild Amusement Park.
Attorney Jeffrey Reiff Notes that Verrückt Water Slide has been Plagued by Problems Since its Developmental Stage
In a recent article on kansascity.com addressing the development of Schlitterbahn’s Verrückt waterslide, The Reiff Law Firm personal injury attorney Jeffrey Reiff was asked to provide his insight into the conditions that led to the 10-year-old boy’s decapitation.
Mr. Reiff stated that he has suspected problems with the ride since its opening day. However, speaking even more broadly, Mr. Reiff states that experience has resulted in his belief that water slides and their current design processes have inherent safety flaws. In fact, this general presumption was readily illustrated on this water slide during its testing phase. The designers of the water slide had used roller coaster derived models to design the slide. But, when the slide was tested, crash dummy sandbags were being launched into the air. After this behavior was detected, half the slide was torn down and rebuilt at a cost of more than $1 million.
However, additional problems have lingered due to the inherent nature of a water slide ride. Consider that with a roller-coaster, the car is the vehicle and engineers have greater control over its safety. Roller coaster cars run on rails and will not take a slightly different path down the course each time. Furthermore, the presence of up-stops, wheels that are placed under the rails, ensures that the car does not come off of the track. Water slides are inherently a different type of ride where each and every trip down the slide will vary – potentially significantly — and furthermore, fewer safety features are available.
In this instance, The Verrückt, posed a heightened risk because it is an unprecedented slide design that put so many variables into play on a soaring, high-speed dash over water. While the height of the slide remains constant, this is the tallest water slide in the world meaning that few other slides even approach the forces that are present on Verrückt. Furthermore, engineers and ride designers were forced to contend with riders of varying weights and weight distribution on every trip down the slide, rafts of varying inflation levels, and the need for “advanced sensor and nozzle technology” that gave rise to concerns regarding consistent water pressure on the slide. Finally, due to the slide’s open nature and great height, the wind could also play a key role in influencing rides down the slide. Mr. Reiff concludes in the article that on a ride like Verrückt “You have a lot of uncontrolled variables that require constant supervision. Lots of things can go wrong. … When you’re going at those speeds, anything going wrong becomes catastrophic.”
Safety Advocates Question Why Two Young Children Were Permitted to Ride Rollo Coaster Alone
Unfortunately, the fatal accident at the Kansas City water slide was but one of the three serious ride accidents that occurred last week. A young three-year-old boy suffered a serious traumatic brain injury after falling from a roller coaster in Pennsylvania at Idlewild Park & SoakZone. Many observers and safety advocates have expressed surprise or horror at the fact that, apparently against park and ride policies, the young three-year-old boy was allowed to ride without an adult present. Ride policies stipulate that riders must be at least 48 inches to ride alone or 36 inches to ride with an adult.
Justin Reiff, who oversees investigations for The Reiff Law Firm, was interviewed by Tribune Live for insight into the circumstances and factors that may have contributed to this roller coaster accident. Justin Reiff states that, in many cases, the young, seasonal employees who often work as ride operators are often to blame for failures to follow park and/or ride rules and guidelines.
Justin Reiff states that, “[Ride operators are] given a book and told, ‘Make sure you read it.’ What happens is they are not familiar with what they should be looking for. They’re not measuring. It’s hot (outside).” Reiff elaborated that “The attendant’s been putting people on the ride. He’s let someone too small on the ride like 100 times before, and then something happens.”
Reiff said safety advocates have found that small children can panic once such rides pick up speed. He says that the young kids will get scared and then, “…They move around, looking for a parent.” “They are all over [the seat], and the parks never take that into consideration.” Young children behave differently from adults or even teenagers and these differences must be taken into account before a small child is allowed on a ride of any type without a parent or guardian. If you were injured due to a roller-coaster, contact our Pennsylvania amusement park accident lawyers today.