Amusement park accident lawsuit highlights dangers

Knott’s Berry Farm, the famous amusement park in Buena Park, California, is under fire after an Illinois family filed a lawsuit in August. According to the lawsuit, the amusement park accident experienced by the Miller family’s 6-year old son is not unique. It is part of a history of issues specific to this ride, dating back over 16 years.

The ride in question is the Timber Mountain Log Ride, which saw a similar lawsuit in 2015 filed by the Miller’s current attorney. A young girl, also 6 at the time, was aboard the log ride when she was injured at the bottom of a long drop. As the log reached the end of its drop, it slowed down dramatically, which caused the girl to smash her face into the seat in front of her. She suffered a broken orbital bone, and was knocked unconscious. Injuries similar to this were sustained by the Miller family’s son a year later.

Older rides more prone to an amusement park accident

The Los Angeles Times performed an investigation into theme park accidents in Southern California. In this region alone, tens of millions of visitors come to Southern California’s various theme parks every year. The number of injuries reported don’t come remotely close.

However, theme parks are not required to report the number of riders that visit a given attraction in a year. That means it is impossible to determine the rate of persons injured on a ride, compared to the overall number of visitors.

What the LATimes did discover was that older rides were far more prone to injuries than newer ones. The reason for this is quite simple: the age of the rides in question. Modern roller coasters benefit from being years, even decades removed from older attractions. That means modern designs, modern safety features, and greater rider comfort. Sensors are built-in to newer rides that can detect more issues before they could lead to a fatal amusement park accident.

Negligence and aging attractions a potentially lethal combination

The Timber Mountain Log Ride was originally opened in 1969. In 2013, the ride went through a five-month long renovation plan. However, the string of injuries cited by the Miller’s lawsuit starts in 2000. The renovations clearly did not prevent the 2015 and 2016 accidents.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health had investigated nine injuries that happened on the log ride. Each accident report describe injuries similar to those experienced by the Miller boy. Additionally, the Department of Industrial Relations performed an investigation of its own in 2015. It learned that devices monitoring the water levels of the log ride were malfunctioning.

The water level determines the nature of how the logs slow down at the bottom of each drop. Too much water causes the logs to slow down too quickly, which could lead to serious facial injuries when riders are suddenly thrown forward. Too little water means that the log maintains more speed while skipping across the water. This can lead to the log crashing against the sides of the chute, which can also cause head and neck injuries to riders.

The current lawsuit claims that the safety features of the log ride are lacking. There is no restraint system to keep riders secure in their seats. According to the Miller’s attorney, the boy continues to suffer from vision issues related to the accident.

As rides age, continued maintenance is necessary. While the lawsuit surrounding this particular amusement park accident did not prove fatal, this will not always be the case.

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