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Kentucky blames Six Flags maintenance, operations for accident

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Published: May 30, 2008 at 6:39 PM

The state of Kentucky has released its official report [PDF file] on the investigation into the Superman Tower of Power accident at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom last summer that cost a teen girl her feet.

And the state puts the blame, squarely, on Six Flags.

The report states:

"The cause of the cable failure has been determined to be fatigue, a progressive failure of the mechanism. The cable on the ride was in a condit ion that caused the cable to fail under its normal load in operation. It is impossible to scientifically determine how long the cable had been in a condition that could lead to the failure of the cable under its normal load. The cables when new are rated to carry at least six times the load placed upon them during normal ride operation."

The report also quotes an expert who said:

"The extent of progressive (fatigue) cracking would have made it possible for the park personnel to detect the deteriorating condition of the rope had they been following the inspection instructions given in the maintenance manual."

And it wasn't just a maintenance failure. The ride ops screwed up as well:

"In the [the state]’s opinion, the injuries to the ride patrons probably would have been limited to cuts and scrapes had the emergency stop button been pressed, in accordance with training, during the 10-second window of time between the loud noise followed by the cable falling and the freefall of the ride."

The result? Kentucky fined Six Flags $1,000.

Look for a jury (or, if the girl's family and the park settle, a judge) to add a "penalty" that's much, much larger.

Readers' Opinions

From James Rao on May 30, 2008 at 7:36 PM
Six Flags' Chief Executive, Mark Shapiro, spends all his time talking about making Six Flags into a new Disney, which is a total crock!

Focus on the important stuff, Shaprio, like not injuring (or killing) your customer base.

As for the $1,000 fine, it is a complete joke. However, with SF's current financial situation, even that low amount is like squeezing blood from a turnip.

From Scot Harkins on May 31, 2008 at 11:08 AM
I cannot speak for this park or today's standards but I can speak to my experience as an employee at Six Flags Over Texas in the 80's:

Safety was number 1 for us at the time, above all else. Ride Ops safety checklists were required and often critiqued by supervisors and above.

Every morning the maintence crews, mechanical, electrical, and electronic, could be seen doing their tests, and sometimes would not release the ride to Rides until they has completed some repair.

Safety is a culture, not a training requirement or a policy. As a culture everyone recognizes they are working on industrial-scale machines that can kill or injure when not maintained or used as designed.

If the crews and techs are NOT living safety-first then these things are bound to continue.

sh

From Robert Niles on May 31, 2008 at 4:55 PM
Absolutely. I know a *lot* of people in the industry who are sickened by the attitude they saw evident from the reports of what folks at Kentucky Kingdom were doing.

People who take pride in their work not only keep their guests safe... they create the kind of environments that people *want* to visit, and will pay to do so, again and again.

From Derek Potter on May 31, 2008 at 7:33 PM
I'm not an expert on maintenance, but if a cable is that worn, than doesn't it need to be replaced? Surely they saw the cable and knew the manufacturers specifications, and surely there was room in the budget to do that. If there wasn't room in the budget, than they surely weren't thinking safety first.

I tend to see things like this not as a single person's fault (although that may technically be the case here), but perhaps the result of a culture that had been around for a while. Not assuming here or accusing anyone at all, but I speculate that perhaps the ride ops present during the accident weren't properly trained or monitored by someone else. Perhaps there was a little too much cost cutting in the wrong place. Perhaps the priorities weren't quite where they should have been. It's unfortunate that this happened, and also that it probably could have been prevented.

I'm not sure what the guidelines are for fines. The $1,000 fine perhaps could have been a mercy ruling, because you know that the family will be getting or has gotten paid big for this.

From rafael g on June 1, 2008 at 5:46 PM
i drink, i never get a chance to, so when i go to disneyland, i stop by at the local 7-11, get a few tall cans, and drink at the park. i keep it in my backpack, no one has ever said anything to me.
From Anthony Murphy on June 1, 2008 at 9:34 PM
Well, the writing is on the wall for Six Flags. It is probably good that they closed down all of that type of ride right afterwards. Ours was in great shape, thank goodness
From Tony Stevens on June 2, 2008 at 5:24 PM
The fine of $1,000.00 is the largest that could be assessed by the law at the time of the accident. The last Kentucky General Assembly increased it to $10,000.00. That is still too small as far as I am concerned. I hope that Katie will be taken care of like Six Flags said they would do.
From David Sutter on June 3, 2008 at 6:29 AM
Lets $1,000.00, in fines..And the girls medical bills...Gee Mr. Shaperio not to make you feel bad..but taking on another job...Fix yout mess at home first...And lets get back some real theme park cast members to run it and run it right...People who actually care about making them fun and safe...And tell your bean counters were to go..for a few years.

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