Kings Dominion ride turned scary after malfunctionVolcano roller coaster car rolled backward; 1 rider hospitalized
BY BILL WASSONTIMES-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.
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.
You might be interested in the following information Ireceived from a friend of mine via email:
Regarding the King's Dominion incident, the articlethat I sent you recently was actually the story thatwas told in the newspaper by the Associated Press asgiven to them by the Public Relations Department atKing's Dominion. The actual events that took placewere QUITE different! I spoke with two women who wereon the ride when it happened. They relayed it asfollows:
"We left the station and 'took off' at top speed.Suddenly, things started flying at us. Parts of theride were coming loose and hitting us. The fender that covers the wheel assembly came loose and hit aman in the head. We thought it was just part of the'special effects' for the ride (although there ARE nospecial effects). The ride suddenly stopped and rolledbackwards toward the station, although it never madeit completely back. Evidently the brakes (or one set)failed to stop the coaster until it had almost reachedthe station. As you can see, I got a minor cut on myleg (it was covered with a Band-Aid) and several otherpeople were taken to the hospital."
There are supposed to be two sets of brakes in case ofmechanical failure. Evidently, one set failed.Normally, the ride stops wherever it happens to breakdown, even if it is upside down. Rollbacks are a signof mechanical neglect. The people were left hangingtwelve feet above the ground for two hours while fireand rescue could figure out how to release the safety features. I just saw on the news today that the manwho supposedly received a minor cut above the righteye "is STILL in the hospital!"
I heard ..... that KD had cut the hours of themaintenance department to save money and that theywere no longer allowed to work overtime, which iscrazy..... The maintenance department people are supposed to walk the entire line every morning beforestarting up and are usually there at 5 am or so. Theyare to check every bolt that holds the track togetheras well as the bolts on the actual cars. So, it seemsthat King's Dominion is cutting cost to the detrimentof safety! (The park was)..... just bought by the company that owns 'Cedar Point' in Ohio as the parkhas been losing money for years and the owner ofViacom/Paramount Parks wanted to unload it and four other parks. He is a multi-billionaire and I guess theprofits just were not what he expected. Whereamusement parks are concerned, safely should be thenumber one concern!
5 stranded when roller coaster stops mid-ride
Associated PressJun 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.
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.