People go to amusement parks and county fairs to experience harmless thrills in relative safety, but several recent news items have left me even less likely to want to go to the carnival the next time it rolls into town. These three high profile accidents make it seem that amusement rides are scarier than clowns, which is saying a lot.
First, three girls fell 30-45 feet from a Ferris wheel in Tennessee, when their gondola overturned. A 6-year-old girl, Briley Rae Reynolds, suffered a traumatic brain injury in the fall and her 10-year-old sister, Kayla, broke her arm, while the third girl, age 16, is unidentified. This ride, which was found to have faulty, worn rivets, was being operated by a company that had previously been involved in a high-profile carnival accident in North Carolina. Their contract was temporarily suspended after the recent accident, but the state of Tennessee cleared the way for the company to operate at four more venues this summer.
Then, ten year old Kansas boy Caleb Schwab was beheaded while riding a 168-foot-tall water slide. The ride, aptly named “Verruckt” (which means “insane” in German), is under investigation to see if there was appropriate safety equipment installed, or if the Velcro straps that held the boy in the ride (or not) had failed in some way. Another 14 year old girl who had gone down the water slide earlier in the day complained that her Velcro straps had come loose, and frankly, I have to wonder whose bright idea it was to use Velcro straps to hold anyone down in a ride described as featuring a “17-story drop before being ‘blasted back up a second massive hill’ to drop down another 50 feet.” That seems pretty Verruckt to me to begin with. When the ride was built and tested, the three-person rafts were seen to come loose from the ride and fall into the air, but after fixing this little issue, the water park’s co-owner, Jeff Henry, said that the ride is “dangerous, but it’s a safe dangerous now.” Seems legit?
Four days later on August 11th, in Pennsylvania, three year old Declan McClain was riding a wooden roller coaster when he fell out of the ride and hit the ground. The amusement park claims that one must be 48 inches tall to ride this ride or that one must be accompanied by an adult, but McClain, who is shorter than the required height, was allowed to ride with his 7 year old brother. There are no seat belts, but there is a metal bar that closes a person into the seat.
ABC News coverage:
With accidents and safety records like this, it’s almost nostalgic to wish for the long gone days of, oh, earlier this summer when the big scare was a creepy, mysterious clown sighted around Green Bay, Wisconsin. The clown’s creepifyin’ antics were a marketing ploy designed to promote an independent film. I’d rather lose a little sleep over a scary clown than lose my life. Especially when there’s no federal oversight over safety regulations at amusement parks (only itinerant traveling carnivals), amusement rides are scarier than clowns.