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One Man Killed on Superman Ride at Six Flags New England

Six Flags New England: A 55-year-old man died after falling out of the ride at around 3 p.m. Saturday.

From Shane Falcone
Posted May 1, 2004 at 8:56 PM
A 55-year-old man died after falling out of the ride at around 3 p.m. today, according to local news reports.

TPI accident report


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Barbara Sabat
Posted May 1, 2004 at 9:27 PM
I was at Six Flags New England today and I rode Superman like at 1pm. I enjoyed the roller coaster but it was a weird experience. I had a bad feeling just as I got on it because I had trouble keeping my restraint in place. As we went up I started praying because I felt like I feared for my life. That day all the rides in general gave me a sense of disorganization and weirdness. You might think I'm making this up because I heard the news but I had never felt that weird at a theme park before. I don't think I ever want to ride Superman again.

From John Lumsden
Posted May 2, 2004 at 5:23 AM
RE: Superman...the circumstances surrounding how the accident actually occured have not been determined. I would imagine that the state will be closely involved however, as they had just completed the mandated safety checks two weeks ago. You can be sure the safety inspection efforts of all the parks rides will will be doubled or tripled after this. The park can't afford bad press going into the season, especially on their premiere ride, without showing increased safety measure standards.

From Chuck Allen
Posted May 2, 2004 at 6:21 AM
Not only does the ride have lap belts but also has a lap bar that fits very tight against you. I can't imagine a circumstance that would allow a person to come lose. The local news reports are saying the accident happened near the end of the ride where there is not a lot of force being put on you, only a few small hills and dips. If maintenance is to blame it would not be very supriseing. On my last visit the park looked awfull. You couldn't even find a toilet that worked.

From Philip Curds
Posted May 2, 2004 at 9:59 AM
More details from the local news network at:

http://www.nbc30.com/news/3260041/detail.html

From Laura Gonzalez
Posted May 2, 2004 at 11:11 AM
Some news reports are saying that the man that died had cerebral palsy. That means he was disabled and probably had some body parts that were paralyzed. My question is how the hell did they let him ride? And if they did, did they make sure the restraints were poperly in place because it's obvious that if the man had a disabling disease such as this one, he might had not been able to put on the restraints himself.

From Chuck Allen
Posted May 2, 2004 at 5:42 PM
Local news here in massachusets is reporting that the same day of the Superman ride tragedy that the bat man or bat wing ride broke down. This is the ride that suspends you on your belly and spins you like you are flying. New reports state that people were trapped on the ride for over 20 min. Until the Agawam Fire department could free them.

From KEVIN PEDRO
Posted May 2, 2004 at 7:52 PM
I FEEL REALLY BAD FOR THE MANS FAMILY AND CAN'T UNDERSTAND Y THEY LET THE MAN ON THE RIDE BUT STILL THE MAN STILL COULD OF ASKED TO GO ON AND THEY SAID YES WELL LET'S JUST HOPE THE MAN DOES NOT START HAUNTING THE PARK THEN THEY WILL HAVE A NEW THING FOR FRIGHT FEST AND + THAT WILL JUST BE SCARY BUT COOL AT THE SAME TIME

PEACE OUT
P.S. THIS IS TO THE FAMILY OF THE MEN SORRY FOR THE LOSS IN UR FAMILY. LATER

From luis gonzalez
Posted May 2, 2004 at 9:47 PM
that was in terrible taste, mildly amusing, but in very bad taste

From Laura Gonzalez
Posted May 2, 2004 at 11:27 PM
I haven't heard anything about the Batman ride. My friends got on it that day like at 6. I guess it must have happened after we left, shortly after they rode Batwing.

From Matt Smeltzer
Posted May 3, 2004 at 6:41 AM
http://apnews.myway.com/article/20040502/D82AOKQG0.html

This article suggests that the man was able to get on the ride himself, and under the ADA, park workers are not permitted to keep him off the ride. I don't know if this argument holds water, but if it does, it absolves the park of any wrongdoing in letting him on the ride.

From Laura Gonzalez
Posted May 3, 2004 at 8:35 AM
Yeah, but if the restraints came lose, and that's the only way he would have flown off. Then I think the park is responsible because they had to make sure everything was in place.

From Chuck Allen
Posted May 3, 2004 at 4:11 PM
Massachusetts has now as of today banned the use of T bar lap style restraints such as the one used on Superman. The commonwealth is asking that all rides useing this type of restraint system be redesigned before they are reopened to the public.
There is a lot of talk that this man may not have been buckled in to the ride at all. Having ridden Superman many times myself I have to say that if the ride attendants checked each ridder as they are supposed to do it would have been very difficult for anyone to fly out of the ride vehicle, The lap bars fit tightly against a persons belly up at the hip line and the seats are deep enough to make flying out difficult.

From Derek Potter
Posted May 3, 2004 at 7:10 PM
Its a terrible shame that this happened. My condolences go to the man's family. As for this incident, something just doesn't add up at this point. If I am correct about this, Superman is an Intamin designed coaster, and basically a smaller version of Millennium Force. The ride has 2 sets of restraints per rider...a seat belt and the "T" lap bar. Having ridden a few Intamin coasters...namely Dragster and Millennium Force, both of which use the same types of restraints, I can say that those particular restraints and seats are very effective and well designed not only for safety, but for comfort. If the state wants to ban these type of restraints, then that is their perrogative, but I can't imagine that they are solely to blame... least of all with an additional belt that ride ops are supposed to check. The fact that the rider had a disabliity such as cerebral palsy leaves even more questions.

Why was he allowed on the ride? Not to be someone who is discriminant, but the ride goes about 75 mph and pulls about 3.5 Gs. Not only that, but the accident supposedly happened on a medium to low intense part of the ride. If he has paralysis in his body, then that makes him a danger to himself and others when he rides a ride such as this. If the ADA rules permitted him on this ride, then they need to seriously review these types of regulations. Not only that, but parks need to think about enforcing their regulations a little more.

We have yet to find out who really is at fault here, so one can't jump to conclusions just yet, but something stinks yet again at Six Flags, and this time it isn't just the toilets.

From jeff Huff
Posted May 3, 2004 at 6:49 PM
I’m writing in response to the piece about the man killed on the roller coaster at 6 flags. I had a similar experience about a year ago, only without the part where I die. I was at 6 flags Darien lake, in Darien new York (sorry not sure on the spelling of the city). The same people who used to own, 6 flags new England, when it used to be Riverside Park, formerly owned Darien Lake. 6 flags bought that company out, and got both parks. I had been going there for years, since before it was a 6 flags. We would go up with our family. But after 6 flags bought them out the whole place changed, it was dirty, it was crowded. Maintenance appeared to be an after thought, but it also meant new and exciting rides. There is a super man there as well, but the ride appears to be a different one, just in its layout, not as exciting as the one in Agawam. The reason I am writing to you however involves a different ride, a smaller roller coaster named the mind eraser. It’s an inverted coaster, the type where your feet, hang beneath you and just sort of dangle. Very exciting, ride, long one of my favorites, as I’ve always like the inverted coasters. I had been on the ride, hundreds of times, felt pretty safe in it, as it is just a ride. Unfortunately this particular time, as I reached the top of the first hill, and began to drop, the harness, which holds me in, unlocked. I was left dangling, and had to use all my strength to hold myself into the chair, for what seemed like an eternity, till the ride stopped. It was exceedingly difficult because, at a point in the ride there is a loop, which acts as a slingshot, throwing you forward. Knowing this as I had been on the ride many times before, I was able to brace myself to keep from being thrown clear. Had it been my first time on the ride however I probably would have died. The issue is, I told the attendants on the ride, what had happened, and they shuffled me off. Payed no attention to me and continued loading the ride, without checking to be certain it was safe. I did the only thing I could at that point and simply told the guy in line behind me not to sit in my seat, and was quickly escorted away from the ride. This is not the only time I had an issue on a ride at 6 fags however, at the same 6 flags, I was on the super man, the one which is not quite like the one at Agawam but fun just the same. As the ride was beginning, it stalled and got stuck 3/4’s of the way up the track, and we were trapped there for over an hour in the sun, while the maintenance crew attempted to free the ride. This problem of the super man becoming stuck, I know is a frequent occurrence, because every time I go to the new York park it gets stuck at least twice. I have never brought these issues up with 6 flags and never mentioned it, and I still go to 6 flags for the simple fact that im a thrill seeker, and there is nothing more thrilling then an amassment park ride that might kill you, or may im just stupid. Either way, hearing about the man being killed upset me because it could very easily have been me, and I never told my story. But I have experienced 6 flags carefree approach to maintenance, and seeing as it has led to a death, I feel guilty for never saying anything before.

From Robert Niles
Posted May 3, 2004 at 7:52 PM
When I worked Thunder at Disney World, we would not let anyone ride who could not sit up by himself, unassisted by others. While I know nothing more about this incident than what's been reported and linked to on this thread, the issue of access for persons with disabilities is an interesting one.

Ride designers make certain assumptions when they create a restraint system. Among them are that the rider will be of certain size (that's why we have minimum heights) and that the rider will have the motor function to control his own body.

Take away any of those assumed conditions, and you're endangering that rider by putting him on that ride.

Courts and legislators can decide if a ride's *design" meets ADA requirements. But operational procedures cannot effectively substitute for design changes. A ride's *operator* should never overlook the assumptions behind the design of a ride in an effort to accomodate more passengers.

From Kelly Carneiro
Posted May 4, 2004 at 9:55 AM
I was at the park the day of the accident. I was on the Jocker ride inside a building when it had happend. But my sister in law was on the Poison Ivy at the time it happend which is right next to the Superman. She said that she had heard the ride come to a screching halt. Like Barbara my sister inlaw was on the Superman at about 1:00. She had told me the exact same thing about the restrant.I have to respond to Chuck Allen I was coming off of the Batman roller coaster at about 7:00 p.m. and the ride called Double Trouble was upside down for 20 minutes no one was hurt and there was park safty crew, security, and an ambulance was at the sean almost instantly. When they got the ride down(manually) They did not let anyone off the ride until everyone was completly checked out. they all got water and I'm sure there tickets for the day was refunded to them all. I was so shocked to here at 10:00 p.m. what had happend that day at the park. There was so many rumors going around I didn't know what to beleive. When I was on the Batman Coaster I had asked the worker there as to why Superman was close the only thing she had told me was that she could not discuss what had happend. I feel so sorry for the family for that man. But like him I to have an illness. I have MS and if I can get on the ride myself I would be pretty mad if they told me I could not get on. But I don't look like I'm sick so I'm sure they would never tell me such a thing. And they are really good at double checking the restrants.And they will double check them if you ask. My sister in law did when she had gotten on the ride a couple of hours before.And one last thing I hope the state is to make them change the restrant on the ride it does not look like it is a very good one to begin with.

From Kelly Carneiro
Posted May 4, 2004 at 11:04 AM
Here is a good argument. Not saying that there was nothing wrong with the restraint but if the restraint was faulty wouln't you think that something would have happend at the 220 foot drop?
Good example. I was 14 I had gone on the cyclone for the first and last time. The bar did not come all the way down on my lap like it should have. I did not think any thing of it, I was 14. Over evey hill it took me all that I had to keep myself from falling out of the ride. It was a very long and frieghtning ride that I will never do again even though now I am 29 this month and weight a lot more. This is another reason why I have chosen not to go on the Superman ride. I feel that there should be a lot more than a t bar restraint for that ride. Cyclone's drops are no where close to that of Superman, nore the speed.

From Robert Niles
Posted May 4, 2004 at 1:00 PM
I've always thought that on a well-designed coaster, the restraint system would be redundant. The ride's momentum should work to keep you in your seat, even on curves and inversions. Good "air time" effects shouldn't need restraints as the ride's momentum would push you off the seat only to have that seat "catch up" and collect you an instant later.

So the restraints would be there in case the ride does *not* function properly -- if the coaster stops suddenly or in an awkward place on the track.

Unfortunately, people are conditioned to believe that the restraints are all that holds them in on a ride. So if the restraint fails, or doesn't hold the rider as tightly as they'd like, many riders tense up, and "fight" the ride, rather than allowing their body's momentum to go with it. That creates the feeling that you're about to fall out.

And if a rider "fights" the ride's momemntum too hard -- through voluntary or involuntary movement or by being the wrong size or shape for the ride -- experience has shown that riders can fall out.

Of course, I'm not willing to put this thought to the test, and ride a coaster without a restraint. My life's not worth gambling on any single machine's flawless operation. I believe in good restraint systems. That's why I use them, never cheat them and checked them on every row of riders that ever came through my station.

From Coaster Enthusiast
Posted May 5, 2004 at 9:49 AM
Very interesting thought on restraint systems. As posted, the restraints on Cyclone are flawed. I sat next to a VERY large man. The lap bar did not even come close to my legs. As Robert pointed out, on a well designed ride, the carriage would 'catch up' to the rider on airborne acrobats. However, I was thrown so hard into the lap bar I continue to have difficuly in my left leg at my knee joint.

So sad to hear about what happened on Superman. My final season's adventure was to be at SFNE. I hope safety will be their #1 effort throughout this season!

From Derek Potter
Posted May 5, 2004 at 10:29 AM
There are some instances on a ride when restraints are put to good use. Hitting the bunny hills and getting lots of air time is made possible by restraints. Im sure that Superman has a few of those hills. Over the shoulder restraints are a necessity if you want a hyper-element coaster, because without some form of stability, one could get hurt. A good coaster design doesn't always keep you in your seat or sitting still, however they also don't require a 5 point harness. The designers count on the restraints in key moments on the ride such as airtime, inversions, highly banked turns, etc. Intamin thrill rides, such as Millenium Force or Superman, utilize the lap bar more to stabilize the rider so that they can enjoy the elements without moving FROM SIDE TO SIDE, while enjoying moments of big airtime and 120 degree banked curves.

Having ridden in Intamin trains many times, I think that the particular restraints in question are one of the best designs in the business. They allow freedom of movement while minimizing the discomfort of a lapbar. They allow Intamin trains to have open air sides to increase the thrill factor, and the seats that go with them are also good. The bucket design with theater style elevation in the back seats goes as far for safety as it does for comfort and thrill. If this style of restraint can take the extreme forces and pressure of Top Thrill Dragster (420ft 120 mph) and Millennium Force (310ft 94mph), then it can withstand the somewhat slower and slightly weaker forces of Superman (220ft 80 mph). If you ask me, Massachusetts should be looking at other factors in this incident before the T-Bar restraint.

From Robert Niles
Posted May 5, 2004 at 1:46 PM
We've been over the problems with bench seat lap bars before, but Coaster Enthusiast's point is worth noting.

Ultimately, restraints are all about comfort. Both the physical comfort of keeping your body and its momentum where it needs to be on the ride, and the mental comfort of knowing that you are secure even as the ride twists, flips and turns.

If a restraint doesn't make you comfortable, it is not doing its job.

From Amanda LaFrance
Posted May 7, 2004 at 6:10 AM
wabc radio in ny just reported that the cause of the accident was the failure of the park employees to properly secure the restraints

From John Lumsden
Posted May 7, 2004 at 3:46 PM
Actually, the final report will assign blame to the ride operators as well as the ride manufacturer and finally the accident victim. It will state that the victims wide girth prevented the t-bar lap restraint from fitting firmly against his thighs. The ride operator should have noted this and denied access. The accident victim was 5-2 230lbs. Also noted in the report will be that he failed to notify ride operators of his pre-existing medical condition, cerebal palsy, as required by Ma. state law. As a side note the report will mention a similiar accident at SF in New York in 1999 which resulted in Intamin installing the seat belts. The accident victim survived and subsequently won 4 million dollars in damages.

From Derek Potter
Posted May 9, 2004 at 5:29 PM
The final report places blame on a few things. Here is a summary. The rider was of a unique size, and the T Bar restraint wasn't compatible with his particular size. The ride ops moved him to the front seat because it had a bigger seat belt. The belts in the front car are longer in order to accommodate larger guests. There are conflicting reports as to how tight the belts and restraints actually were. When the train left the station, the T Bar was not fastened tightly to the rider, and when the train hit the bunny hills, which are more intense in sequence the rider was knocked more and more loose, and by the time the last bunny hill led into the helix, the rider was hanging over the side of the car. By this time, the restraints were in a totally ineffective position and he was thrown out. The report seems to place the bulk of the responsiblilty on the ride ops and their failure to recheck and recognize the poor position and inadequacy of the T Bar for that particular rider. When combined with the riders body frame and health, along with the misinformation about the seat belts, it made for a terrible accident.

I can understand the nature of the Mass gov't wanting to react to the accident, I can't see where the blame falls on the T Bar. The fact of the matter is that it wasn't used properly and to the specifications of the manufacturer. It's accidents like these that make the industry and its patrons understand phrases such as "guests of exceptional or unique size" or all of those warnings about safety risks, loose restraints, and the fact that even though roller coasters are fun, they are still heavy machinery, and should be treated as such with respect and regard for those who ride it.

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