Many theme park and carnival rides are designed to provide harmless thrills to their customers. Most of these rides have a number of safety features that are intended to preserve the “harmless” aspect of the ride without impairing the thrill of the experience. If, however, the safety features malfunction or are not properly operated, the safety of riders can be severely imperiled, leading to serious injuries and, in a recent case in Colorado, death.
The accident occurred on Sept. 5 at the Haunted Mine Drop Ride at the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. The ride is intended to simulate a 110-foot vertical drop into an abandoned mine. A six-year-old patron of the ride was thrown from her seat and killed. An investigation by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, Division of Oil and Public Safety found that the child had not been properly buckled into her seat and was instead sitting on the belts when the ride began. The failure to properly restrain the child was attributed to a number of operator errors. According to the report on the incident, ride operators had not received proper training in the use of safety restraints and did not respond properly to various error messages on the ride’s safety monitoring system.
Specific errors and omissions
The report listed specific operator errors, including failure to supervise the use of the passenger restrain system, i.e., the seat belts, and the failure to understand the meaning of various graphic messages on the Human Machine Interface, i.e., control panel. The seats on the ride contained a safety signaling system that should have told operators that the seat belts in the girl’s compartment were not properly tightened. Operators are specifically instructed by both the rider owner and the ride manufacturer that they are responsible for connecting and tightening each patron’s seat belt. Witnesses told investigators that they saw operators letting riders fasten their own seat belt straps throughout the day. The operating manuals also tell operators to visually confirm that all riders are properly belted into their seats.
Although the operators of the mine ride appear to be principally at fault for the girl’s death, they are not likely to be held liable for damages. Any liability for the girl’s family’s wrongful death damages will most likely be borne by the ride’s owner and any firms hired to inspect the ride or train operators.
After such a tragic accident, the family of the victim will giver significant consideration to pursuing a suit for damages resulting from the girl’s death. In such cases, an experienced personal injury attorney can provide invaluable assistance by analyzing the damages, suggesting legal arguments supporting a successful claim and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages for funeral expenses and loss of comfort and emotional support.