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Launch failure on Kings Dominion's Volcano strands 15, hurts 2

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Published: June 24, 2006 at 3:25 PM

An accident Friday shut down Volcano: The Blast Coaster at Kings Dominion in Virginia. A train stalled after launching from the load station, rolling back slightly, then leaving 15 riders stranded on the track of the Intamin suspended coaster, where they had to be cherry-picked by local emergency personnel. Two people were hospitalized for their injuries, a boy who was treated and released for a leg injury and a man who suffered more serious, unspecified injuries.

High-speed launch coasters, such as Top Thrill Dragster and Kingda Ka, have had problems before with debris-spewing launch failures, but as I understand Volcano (I haven't seen it in person), the mechanism there is different. Haven't heard a report yet about how long the ride will be down, so I'll defer to our readers in the area to submit an update.

Readers' Opinions

From Erik Yates on June 24, 2006 at 8:51 PM
Isnt Volcano an magnetic coaster similar to Hulk and Rockin Roller Coaster? Why would anything fly off of it if thats the case? Top thrill dragster, and Kingda Ka I can understand as they both have mechanical pieces, such as Dragsters cable (I believe) and Ka's plates. This is very curious. It will be interesting to see what really went wrong with this coaster.
From Coaster Enthusiast on June 25, 2006 at 12:05 AM
Volcano uses two systems: A catapult system at the beginning of the ride, using pullies, cables and a counterbalance. And an electromagnetic system to "blast" the riders to the top and out of the volcano. I've ridden Volcano quite a few times. I've been hit with such debris as: caps, sunglasses, cell phones, keys and small toys. The staff is usually young, high-school kids out for the summer, and not always see if a rider is carrying (or wearing) an item that may cause an issue.
From Erik Yates on June 25, 2006 at 7:29 AM
So if I'd have to guess I'd say that the catapult system at the bottom snapped and thats where the cuts and damage came from?
From Dustin Kern on June 25, 2006 at 12:43 PM
I thought that Volcano was totally LIM launched. How could you have a catapult system for the first launch when you're already moving when you begin to launch?
From Jake Countiss on June 25, 2006 at 2:29 PM
Kings Dominion website says Volcano is temporary closed. I agre with the previous response. Volcano is all electromagnetics becuase you can see the motors above your head during the launch. It must have been a part hoding the moters to the track that caused the injuries.
From Erik Yates on June 25, 2006 at 3:21 PM
Done a little more research on it. According to other news sites, several riders said that the train started up but then began to slide back down very fast. The breaks were deployed but failed, the second set of breaks deployed and burnt apart. That seems to be what hit everyone.
From Dustin Kern on June 25, 2006 at 3:44 PM
Okay, now I'm a little confused about what happened. What we know: Volcano is totally a LIM launched suspended coaster, there was an accident, 2 people got hurt. Where did the accident occur? Was it at the first launch area right outside the station? Or was it the second one right before going vertical out the mountain? Which part of the track did the train finally stop on? Where are the emergency brakes located?
From Erik Yates on June 25, 2006 at 3:56 PM
Heres the story I got my information from. And it does not say the brakes broke up, my mistake. I just says they were hit with debris as the ride came to a stop

Kings Dominion ride turned scary after malfunction
Volcano roller coaster car rolled backward; 1 rider hospitalized

BY BILL WASSON
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Jun 25, 2006


Virginia Commonwealth University student Amanda Zumbrun got more excitement than she bargained for on Paramount's Kings Dominion's Volcano roller coaster.

"We all thought we were going to die," the 21-year-old from Yorktown said last night. "I really feared for my life."

Zumbrun and a friend, also a VCU student, were among 15 riders stranded when the roller coaster at the Hanover County theme park malfunctioned about 5:15 p.m. Friday. The friend asked not to be identified.

A rider injured in the incident remained hospitalized yesterday, according to Kings Dominion public relations manager Susie Storey.

Zumbrun said the car she and her friend were in was ascending the Volcano when the car suddenly began to travel backward very fast. They came to a stop in a spray of sparks and debris as the car's brakes took hold, the students said.

Zumbrun estimated the car was traveling more than 60 mph as it rolled backward. Her friend said she was afraid their car would collide with another car.

The students said a first set of brakes failed and the car was stopped by a second set of brakes. They said they and other riders were hit with debris as the car came to a stop.

Zumbrun said she received a small cut on her left arm. Her friend said she got a small burn on her neck when she was hit by what she described as a hot piece of copper. The injuries were minor and the young women did not seek medical attention, they said.

However, they said they heard a man riding behind them cry out that he had been blinded.

Storey said she could not comment on the two students' accounts of what happened and said she did not how fast the car was traveling as it went backward.

Storey said last night that the roller coaster experienced what is termed a roll back.

She said a rider from Utah was cut above the right eye in the incident and remained hospitalized yesterday at VCU Medical Center. She said she did not know the extent of his injury.

A 12-year-old boy from North Carolina who complained of a sore leg was treated Friday night at St. Mary's Hospital and released, Storey said.

She said a state inspector and a representative of the ride's manufacturer were at the park yesterday to determine what caused the malfunction. The ride will remain closed until the cause has been identified.

More than 2 million people have ridden the Volcano since it went into operation in 1998, according to Storey.

Hanover firefighters and Kings Dominion workers took about two hours to bring the 15 stranded riders to safety.

Zumbrun and her friend said they were the last to be brought down.

From Michael Creamer on June 26, 2006 at 9:46 AM
A bit more info...

Volcano is all LIM-- both the launch and a second set as you begin to go up into the volcano.

When Volcano originally opened, the second set was not there. The problem, however, was that a full train could not get all the way up (not enough momentum from the launch). Every other seat row had to be removed from the train so the lighter train would have enough speed to get up the hill and out of the volcano. The second boost was added later.

I would guess that the second set failed. If so then the train would have been a good distance up the hill and would then have just started rolling backword. There really aren't any other places on the ride that it could roll backward at a high speed.

From Dustin Kern on June 27, 2006 at 10:40 AM
The extent of the man's injuries was not minor. I will not disclose information or details in respect to the family. I am friends with the man's father-in-law through work. The man will be okay though.
From Robert Niles on June 27, 2006 at 12:37 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Dustin. Please send along our best wishes for a swift recovery.
From Glenn Bailey on June 27, 2006 at 12:48 PM
I was in the
park later that day and was informed by an employee on
duty that the ride had been closed due to a "fight."

You might be interested in the following information I
received from a friend of mine via email:


Regarding the King's Dominion incident, the article
that I sent you recently was actually the story that
was told in the newspaper by the Associated Press as
given to them by the Public Relations Department at
King's Dominion. The actual events that took place
were QUITE different! I spoke with two women who were
on the ride when it happened. They relayed it as
follows:

"We left the station and 'took off' at top speed.
Suddenly, things started flying at us. Parts of the
ride were coming loose and hitting us. The fender
that covers the wheel assembly came loose and hit a
man in the head. We thought it was just part of the
'special effects' for the ride (although there ARE no
special effects). The ride suddenly stopped and rolled
backwards toward the station, although it never made
it completely back. Evidently the brakes (or one set)
failed to stop the coaster until it had almost reached
the station. As you can see, I got a minor cut on my
leg (it was covered with a Band-Aid) and several other
people were taken to the hospital."

There are supposed to be two sets of brakes in case of
mechanical failure. Evidently, one set failed.
Normally, the ride stops wherever it happens to break
down, even if it is upside down. Rollbacks are a sign
of mechanical neglect. The people were left hanging
twelve feet above the ground for two hours while fire
and rescue could figure out how to release the safety
features. I just saw on the news today that the man
who supposedly received a minor cut above the right
eye "is STILL in the hospital!"

I heard ..... that KD had cut the hours of the
maintenance department to save money and that they
were no longer allowed to work overtime, which is
crazy..... The maintenance department people are
supposed to walk the entire line every morning before
starting up and are usually there at 5 am or so. They
are to check every bolt that holds the track together
as well as the bolts on the actual cars. So, it seems
that King's Dominion is cutting cost to the detriment
of safety! (The park was)..... just bought by the
company that owns 'Cedar Point' in Ohio as the park
has been losing money for years and the owner of
Viacom/Paramount Parks wanted to unload it and four
other parks. He is a multi-billionaire and I guess the
profits just were not what he expected. Where
amusement parks are concerned, safely should be the
number one concern!

From Glenn Bailey on June 27, 2006 at 1:06 PM
The following is the text of the referenced Associated Press story:

5 stranded when roller coaster stops mid-ride

Associated Press
Jun 23, 2006

DOSWELL, Va. - Two people were injured Friday when a roller coaster stopped just after leaving the platform at Paramount's Kings Dominion.

Volcano: The Blast Coaster stopped around 5:15 p.m. with 15 passengers on board, said park spokeswoman Susan Storey. It took park workers and members of the Hanover County Fire Department more than two hours to remove everyone.

The coaster had just pulled away from the station when it rolled back, but not all the way to the platform, leaving the passengers stranded 12 feet above ground.

A 24-year-old man from Utah received a cut above his eye, and a 12-year-old boy from North Carolina complained of a sore leg, Storey said. They were taken to Richmond-area hospitals, but their conditions were not immediately available.

The park did not identify the injured passengers.

Rescuers dodged heavy rains and lightning that drenched the area just south of the park.

"We've been watching the radar," Storey said while rescuers removed the passengers.

The coaster debuted in 1998 featuring the world's tallest inversion and reaches speeds of over 70 mph. This is the first time riders have been stranded on the coaster, Storey said.

The coaster will remain closed while park officials investigate what caused the roller coaster to malfunction.

From Robert Niles on June 27, 2006 at 10:34 PM
Sorry, Glenn, but I have to call B.S. on a few assumptions by the e-mailer you posted.

First, having worked on a roller coaster, I can say that rollbacks are not a sign of "mechanical neglect." If a coaster rolled back on a traditional chain lift with a rachet dog and anti-rollback bars, that'd be one thing. But on most parts of any roller coaster track, trains are designed to either proceed forward or roll back to a point of low potential energy.

And as for the two-hour wait, that's pretty normal for a ride evacuation of this type. Heck, we had evacuations at Pirates of the Caribbean take that long, and no cherry pickers were involved. I'd much rather emergency personnel take their sweet time, with triple-checked fail-safe procedures followed, if I'm hanging 12 to 20 feet in the air.

The stuff about PKD maintenance is hearsay, which I would be more inclined to believe had the correspondent not lit their credibility on fire in the previous paragraphs. PKD also has not been "losing money for years" and the owner of the Paramount Parks was a publicly traded corporation, not a single "multi-billionaire." CBS Inc.'s managers wanted out of the theme park business because they didn't understand it and didn't want to incorporate it into their new former spin-off from Viacom. The writer offers no evidence to back up the potentially libelous claim that "So, it seems that King's Dominion is cutting cost to the detriment of safety!" There's no evidence presented that inspections did not take place, or that an inspection could have caught whatever caused this problem, which has yet to be determined.

Look, I love eyewitness accounts. But let's stick to what we've seen with our eyes. After we've got that information then we can start drawing conclusions. But this account is so full of hooey that it is hard for me to take even the second-hand eyewitness parts of it credibly.

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