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Man dies after falling off roller coaster.

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Badams, Jul 9, 2011.

  1. Badams

    Badams Well-Known Member

  2. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    I'm curious what they'll find in the investigation. For a few summers back when I was in college, I was in charge of a large roller coaster, and so a few questions pop out at me.

    First, was he wearing prosthetics or not? Given where his legs were amputated (above the knees), if he weren't wearing any, he should have been denied entry*. When the entire lower half of both legs is missing, it changes the weight distribution, and makes it very easy for someone to slip out in low G areas regardless of whether they're secured or not. It's the same reason why people under a certain height aren't allowed on bigger rides... need to be more bottom-heavy, and that doesn't happen when feet can't touch the floor when in a seated position. But we don't know yet if he was wearing any or not, so we'll have to wait and see.

    The second thing that comes to mind is whether he unbuckled after the train left the station or not. I can't tell you how many people (coincidentally, usually guys starting in their teens all the way up to mid-30's) think a ride is more thrilling without the seat belt and refuse to buckle it in the station. Only after realizing the ride won't go until after everyone is secured with the lap bar AND buckled in with the seat belt, they'll reluctantly do it. But once the train leaves the station, off comes the seat belt, leaving only the lap bar in place... which is very very risky. I myself have tried riding without the seat belt just once, and it was scary. In the low G areas without a seat belt, your butt comes off the seat and you're held in only by the lap bar. I thought I was going to fly out, so once my butt got back down, you can bet I buckled back in mid-ride.

    But if he was wearing prosthetics AND was buckled in the entire time... I just don't know.

    *Going off the assumption that all theme parks have similar policies for their big rides.
    WindSpirit and (deleted member) like this.
  3. Cyn

    Cyn Well-Known Member

    Unbelievably sad and tragic :( .

    Back in the 60's, my Great-Aunt was riding a "scrambler" at a local fair when the equipment malfunctioned with one of the "arms," resulting in it flying out of control into another arm, injuring several people and beheading one of passengers in the seat in front of hers. My Aunt was hurt, thankfully with minor injuries, but she to this day still has occasional nightmares from what happened.

    I fell in love with roller-coasters and other thrill rides since the first time I found out I met the "You must be "THIS" tall to ride the "________," the accidents and resulting tragedies make me now glad my back injuries force me to refrain from getting in the queue -- it keeps me from pulling that She-Gal, fearless tomboy urge to say "fcuk it" and hop on. To this day, I definitely miss the adrenaline rush and the sensation of being twisted, turned, spun, and inverted while traveling at high speeds, and one of my biggest regrets is that I will never get to experience the amazing coasters, etc., at Cedar Point, Kings Island, and other parks with the major E-Ticket rides :fragile: (for you young-'uns, ask one of us old farts what an "E-Ticket Ride" means :p.


    On a similar and sad note, a fan at the Texas Rangers baseball game fell to his death after losing his balance and falling headfirst while trying to catch a foul ball for his son that was "flipped" to the crowd by one of the Rangers' outfielders.

    Yahoo Sports Article.

    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011
  4. AliasJohnDoe

    AliasJohnDoe Headcase Addict

    That really is a sad story. Interesting to hear your perspective of it Nerdycool.

    Having the coaster fly off the track, as it goes around a corner at the top, has always been a recurring dream of mine. Scares the crap outta me. :yikes:
  5. Jenna

    Jenna Well-Known Member

    Both stories are so, so tragic.

    :( A father and his son go out to a baseball game together, a classic American tradition, and this happens. The horrifying part is that you just never know when death can strike.

    A clip of the accident.
  6. MikiAndoFan#1

    MikiAndoFan#1 Well-Known Member

    So sad. :(
  7. Cheylana

    Cheylana Well-Known Member

    Many thanks nerdycool. By the way, that link now contains a video clip that says he was NOT wearing his prosthetics. So it sounds like he should have been denied entry. Yikes!

    I can't believe it's possible to unbuckle a seatbelt after the train has left the station...or that people would be so crazy as to unbuckle it! :eek: I always assumed that thing stayed buckled until the ride concluded and the train was back in the station.

    Cyn, your aunt's story sounds like a total nightmare too :(
  8. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    Huh... I wonder why he was let on then. Of course, it's up to the workers at the ride to spot something like that, because one just can't assume that people will abide by "the rules." (my example would be turning obviously pregnant women away) Or maybe he sweet-talked them into it, or perhaps he even got clearance by a supervisor. My bet is that he just got in line and other than the fact that he was in a wheelchair, was mostly overlooked by the workers.

    But yes, the seat belt portion of a ride is just a simple lap belt found in vehicles, and the rider has the ability to operate it at will. The part you're thinking of that secures a person and doesn't open until after the ride is done is the lap bar. Most rides that don't have have over-the-shoulder restraints (like the ride in question) will have both a seat belt and a lap bar for extra security.
  9. Badams

    Badams Well-Known Member

  10. Buzz

    Buzz Well-Known Member

    Unbelievably sad and tragic. My prayers goes out to him and his family. He is in a better place now.
  11. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    That's surprisingly unfortunate, especially considering the size of the coaster. Although technically he should have been held to the 54" height requirement they have for the ride if there wasn't a no leg policy in place... but it would have been hard to measure in his case. It was probably assumed he met it, and who knows... maybe he did.

    But I guarantee that restriction will be unofficially enforced until they can revise the SOP manual and also on the sign at the entrance of the ride. And all the amusement park workers across the US will get a refresher course in ride requirements.
  12. Cheylana

    Cheylana Well-Known Member

    There surely will be a lawsuit...unless he was found to have unbuckled his seatbelt mid-ride...oh heck, there will be a lawsuit anyway, which will be settled out of court.
  13. Beefcake

    Beefcake Guest

    Where does it say that his belt/bar came undone? I didn't see that, and if it isn't confirmed I've got to say that it was the law of physics that caused this tragedy.

    The victim's left leg was amputated almost to the hip. There is no leg to buckle in ... and only about a foot of leg on the left to brace against a rollercoaster's inertia. He could have easily slipped out when he "leaned forward" (as described in the clip), especially if the description that he came out toward the end ... meaning that it could've been coming downhill and slowing down rapidly for the ride's end.

    RIP, poor guy. And deep sympathies for his family. Hero gone. :(

    But, let's not assume that the ride operators or the ride are at fault. The victim had to have been told either directly or indirectly that his riding was risky, given that he didn't have legs to surely keep him in place. And even if he wasn't (yes, bash me for blaming the victim), he should've considered the danger and opted not to ride or to ride with his prosthetics on.
  14. Cheylana

    Cheylana Well-Known Member

    I didn't say the guy unbuckled his seatbelt or that anyone at the park was at fault. My point is that when these things happen, the family files a lawsuit, regardless of who is at fault. Most juries would sympathize with an Army veteran who lost his legs to the Iraq War, so the park would rather just settle out of court and avoid the protracted litigation.
  15. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    It's unknown whether he unbuckled or not, but I did mention it as one of the things that could have happened before we knew any specifics of the accident. But I do agree with you that his death was likely due to the law of physics, and that there is nothing wrong with the ride... although I would want to take a look at the ride policies (there are probably more than what they list on their website and only found in the SOP manuals given to employees) and whether the ride operators were following them or not. And that will be key in determining whether to press suit or not for the family. Since there's nothing wrong with the ride itself, I don't think they have a case yet.
  16. judiz

    judiz Well-Known Member

    The man's cousin was quoted in today's paper as saying her cousin died happy, doing what he loved.
  17. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

    Very sad.
  18. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    A short clip on ABC News about the lack of federal regulations on roller coasters. In addition to the fatal accident in NY, they highlight a ride evacuation in Texas last week as bad. Although no one likes to walk down hundreds of steps from the top of a roller coaster, the ride actually did what it was supposed to, which is to stop trains from colliding should something go wrong with the ride. All coasters now have a multitude of sensors and braking areas/evacuation zones for cases like this, and the top of the first hill is one of them. So I wish they'd do a little homework before they go and report something like that as bad.

  19. WindSpirit

    WindSpirit OmnipresentAdmeanistrator

    nerdycool, thanks for all the information.

    I don't like roller coasters. The forces make me feel like all the organs are shifting in my body and it's a very unpleasant experience. I have to brace myself to get through it. If I didn't feel that maybe I could enjoy the ride, because I'm not scared of the heights/speed/etc.

    It's interesting what you said about seat belts. Because I don't remember any seat belts on the two roller coaster that I was on. We only had that big metal thing that goes around your shoulders and there's a bar on your lap. And every time I felt it wasn't enough. I was trying to hold on to it as if my life depended on it. Maybe it did after all.

    The first roller coaster I was ever on went inside a big wheel and stopped at the top. I remember being upside down and all my weight was on the metal bar on my lap. No seat belts. I was making my body stiff so much, trying to hold on, that I was so weak afterward I could barely walk. I felt as if I went through labor.
  20. Beefcake

    Beefcake Guest

    The investigation outcome is pretty much what I'd thought. What's next, beyond the a sad funeral? The family doesn't "seem" to be the sue happy type, but if they were they'll be, what, saying that a [likely 17 year-old kid] carnival ride operator shoud have known better and overrided the war hero and his eager family ... a hero apparently eager to "do what he loved / be normal again"?

    No crime ... "[the park] violated its own policy in allowing Army Sgt. James Hackemer on the ride, but the violations were not criminal" ...

  21. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    I'm glad the investigation was done quickly and that the family seem to be content with not suing. And I really hope the park retrains their employees... because I can guarantee that man passed at least 2 workers before even getting on the ride, and more may have even watched him get on. Handicapped people take longer to load in, so the other workers would have gotten their jobs finished by the time he entered his seat. So massive fail as a whole team.

    You're welcome WindSpirit.

    Seat belts are a relatively new thing to roller coasters, and not all may have them, depending on what type of coaster it is and whether the coaster is in an amusement park or a county/state fair. But about 10 years ago there was a big hub-bub about adding additional safety measures along with the ones already in place, so most coasters had them added and new coasters were built with them already in place.

    But yes, coasters can take a lot out of you physically. Especially the wooden coasters, which give a bumpier ride. The steel coasters have a smoother ride, but they usually go faster since they can be built taller. The one I worked at (Wild Thing at Valleyfair), tops out at 74mph, and that was tough for my neck to take sometimes. And it's not even close to being the fastest coaster... there's one in Abu Dahbi that goes 150mph! I cannot even begin to imagine that ride.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2011
  22. Japanfan

    Japanfan Well-Known Member

    I wonder why there is no criminal liability?
  23. julieann

    julieann Well-Known Member

    A tear came to my eye when you mention Wild Thing, don't even get me started about the High Roller :( I miss them both.
  24. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins Well-Known Member

    Because having both legs was a park rule, not a government-imposed requirement. That doesn't stop the family from suing the park, it just means that the park didn't violate any goverment-imposed safety rules.

    Many moons ago, Great Adventure in NJ had a walk-through haunted castle attraction. Behind the facade, it was just a bunch trailers linked together with black lights and live "spooks" that jumped out at you as you walked past horror scenes. One spring day, there was a fire (suspected arson) and eight kids died inside because they couldn't find their way out. The park/company was charged with manslaughter because they hadn't set up sufficient emergency plans. (Poor emergency lights, exit signs, insufficient exits and no smoke/fire detectors.) The park was found not guilty, but it was still a horrible loss that led to improvements in the process overall. The families settled out of court for the most part.


    I always hated that attraction, and one of my nieces would freak out when we would wait outside. The ghouls really scared her badly. (She was very young)