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Let's be careful out there: How to stay safe at a theme park, and what happens when you don't

By Robert Niles
Published: April 28, 2010 at 10:40 AM
Two safety-related stories hit the news this week:

First, the State of California faulted Knott's Berry Farm and Intamin this week for the cable snap on Knott's Xcelerator launch roller coaster last fall. Essentially, the state knocked Intamin for confusing maintenance instructions and Knott's for not inspecting and repairing the cable often enough. The cable shredded during a launch last year, a moment that was captured in a YouTube video that the park swiftly had taken down. With the report filed, repairs made and a new maintenance schedule in place, the ride's now reopened for visitors.

Another water sprite has collided with the ferryboat at Walt Disney World. In an incident last Thursday, a man drove the small boat in which he and his wife were riding too close to the ferry. He tried to swerve, but didn't have enough room. The ferryboat driver switched to reverse, but the wife was pinned against the ferry, suffering chest injuries.

Authorities might press charges against the sprite driver, for reckless boating. If the circumstance warrant, bravo, I say. If the park is a fault in an incident (as with Xcelerator), then the state should take action against the park. But if a park visitor is at fault, and violates a law in doing so, then appropriate charges should be on the table against the park visitor, as well. (In this case, I would keep in mind that the wife's injuries are punishment enough, so any appropriate charge should be pretty light.)

Since so many of the incidents that result in people getting hurt in theme parks can be prevented, we've put together a list of Top 10 Theme Park Safety Tips. I hope that all Theme Park Insider readers will take a look at that list before visiting the parks this year.

Readers' Opinions

From Brandon Mendoza on April 28, 2010 at 12:19 PM
I've always thought that there should be some sort of class or even license needed for water sports and motorized vehicles in water. So many people don't understand that you can't stop or turn a jet ski on a dime in the same way you do a car (not that they stop or turn on a dime either). Water responds differently than asphalt. I see so many injuries every summer due to people not understanding how to control a jet ski, a small motor boat etc.

Sure there's only a small amount of people who use a boat or water craft, but why is it that only Alabama requires a license?

I do feel bad whenever people get hurt at theme parks. But I also get irritated when some people think it's always the theme park's fault for everything.

From Scott B on April 28, 2010 at 12:28 PM
In regards to the ferry boat accident. Did anyone see the article linked from WESH Orlando? This is the quote that got me:

"Michael Wormald, the victim's husband, was driving the boat when the crash happened. He stated that he believed the ferry was going to move away for him and his wife, but he then noticed the vessel was coming at their boat when it was only a short distance away."

Wait....what? You are in a two passenger boat and you think the ferry is going to get out of your way?!?! A ferry?!?!

Okay, first that ferry isn't exactly a jetski cruising around the lake. It is a big lumbering mass. To not even know that you are in close proximity to it is confusing. And second, if it is you vs a ferry, please know that the ferry is always going to win in this little game of chicken. Seriously, if you are waiting for the ferry to do a sharp 180 so you can continue on your little reckless pleasure cruise, you are clearly a confused person.

From Robert Niles on April 28, 2010 at 12:42 PM
I noticed that, too, Scott. I am going to continue to ignore that quote because if I address it I will likely end up using language that would drive away every last TPI reader who hasn't spent significant time in the Navy, a prison or a junior high school.
From Thomas Caselli on April 28, 2010 at 12:54 PM
Sometimes there are problems with rides and attractions, but it seems like most of the time when someone gets hurt, the person wasn't following the rules or rode a ride inspite of having some kind of health problem that the ride aggravated. As far as that boat accident is concerned or anything similar to that, if you are in a small boat, steer clear of the big ones and if you are walking or riding a bike on any given road, steer clear of the motor vehicles.
From 65.184.233.253 on April 28, 2010 at 1:20 PM
Sounds to me like Terror-of-the-High-Seas Michael was trying to dispose of his wife in a convenient manner... I mean come on man, Big boats have right-of-way (durr common sense) and why in the world would someone just arbitrarily play chicken with a ferry?

Thats just dumb. I'm no lawyer, but charges seem appropriate. I just can't see how Disney could be liable at all.

From 207.204.139.17 on April 28, 2010 at 10:11 PM
I agree with Scott B 100%. It caught my attention too. With that said, the anonymous is on to something. That's just it, a lot of people don't have it.
What?
Common sense. In my opinion i think people feel entitled to do stuff. They think that cause they pay they have the right to do as they please. I see it where i live a lot of times. At the movies. Some people just won't shut up and keep constantly calling for attention . They even said it at loud,if someone calls them out, ahh i paid...

My point is that (some)people think that because they paid for something, that gives them some extra rights. Never minding other people paid too, and have rights too. (In this particular instance being safe on the water.)

The fact that he thought the ferry would move is ludacris. Is reaaaally dumb!! (To put it kindly) If this was me i wouldn't even be or put myself in the path of a Ferry. Never mind turn at the last second. So if he is guilty, it goes to show once again that some people(a lot in my opinion)don't have any common sense.

From Larry Zimmerman on April 29, 2010 at 4:22 AM
I hate to get all legalistic in the face of all this adrenaline-fueled speculation, but there ARE legal rules of navigation, and the gentleman involved might have been expecting the ferry to react according to them. See Rules 14 and 15 of the Coast Guard's navigation rules pages, which are derived from the Inland Navigation Rules Act of 1980 (Public Law 96-591, 94 Stat. 3415, 33 U.S.C. 2001-2038). Disclaimer -- I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV, so I can't say whether or not those rules apply in closed bodies of water on private property (or special improvement districts). However, if the boater was familiar with said rules, it builds a case for his expectations of compliance.

That said, the laws of physics will trump the Rules of Navigation just about every time. That's why Disney tells the small boaters to STAY AWAY from the ferries.

From 167.7.140.254 on April 29, 2010 at 8:42 AM
Sorry, but guests should have no expectations when it comes them vs. a ferry boat. It's a ferry boat!! Disney needs to come up with a way to measure a guest's arrogance and stupidity before letting them drive one of those things.
From 65.184.233.253 on April 30, 2010 at 12:42 AM
Larry, just to clairify, the 'right-of-way' I was referring to wasn't so much the 'legal' right of way as the 'physics-is-on-my-side' right of way.

cheers though, you have a fine point.

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