Published: June 22, 2007 at 1:11 PM
Here's what seems to me to be the possibilities:
Every piece of mechanical equipment is rated to last a certain amount of use before it has to be maintained, repaired or replaced. Your car needs oil every few thousand miles. The tires need to be rotated, then replaced. Amusement park rides are the same. Every certain number of rides, certain parts need to be lubed, rotated and replaced.
When the investigation finds the initial part that failed, someone can check the maintenance records for that part to see if it was within its scheduled life and had been maintained properly. If not, that becomes a huge problem for SFKK, but a bit of a relief for everyone else running this model of ride. If they have followed recommended maintenance procedures, then their rides should be okay and they can reopen.
If the part was in complaince on maintenance, then life gets more complicated. Is there a design flaw in the ride that put unexpected stress on the part? Was there a manufacturing flaw in this specific part? Was the part improperly installed? Or was their some external factor?
You can rotate your tires on schedule, but if you run over a nail, you still might need to replace it early. One can't yet rule out some similar freak occurance here. Could someone have dropped something, such as a cell phone, which ricocheted into the mechanism, causing the cable to snap? If that then turns out to be the case, one has to consider design changes to protect the ride mechanism from such intrusions. Or changing operations procedures to keep riders from bringing loose objects on the ride. Or both.
The smart thing for parks to do here to show the public how they will move heaven and earth to investigate and ensure the safety of their rides. Closing these models during the investigation is an appropriate first step.