Looking for answers when theme park rides fail
Published: July 7, 2010 at 9:55 PM
Last week in the news round-up, I linked to the story from China about an accident at a space-themed centrifuge ride that claimed the lives of six theme park visitors. This week, Chinese authorities have "detained" 11 park maintenance and operations workers, as part of the investigation.
I don't know what, specifically, is meant by "detained" in China - whether that means simply that the workers were held for a few hours for questioning, or that they are being jailed until the investigation's complete. Nor is the Shanghai news report clear on exactly which authorities were doing the detaining.
The investigation has ruled out sabotage, and now is focusing on a mechanical failure. I've not been to China and, obviously, never been on this ride. But from the reported descriptions, it sounds something like Epcot's Mission: Space, a spinning space-themed ride where visitors ride in separate capsules. Apparently, something broke on the Chinese ride, one unit stopped and others crashed into it, ejecting some riders and crushing others. Horrible.
It's hard for me to imagine how a modern amusement ride could fail so spectacularly and tragically, not with the industry knowledge that is available on how to run such a ride safely, and reliably so. Since this ride did fail, it appears that somewhere along the line, either that knowledge either wasn't passed along to the people in position to implement it or the commitment to implement that knowledge was not instilled among enough of this park's employees. Ultimately, those are management failures, too.