Law Pending to Regulate Amusement Rides

At Chicago’s Six Flags Great America, the Cajun Cliffhanger features a floor that drops from under passengers while centrifugal force pins them to the wall.

But when the floor came back up under 11-year-old Kati Konstantaras last week, her foot was caught and crushed.

It was no surprise to Tracy Dubas. She says her foot was caught in the same ride.

“I ended up having to slip my feet out of my shoes, so that I could at least free my feet up,” she says.

A report issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on amusement ride-related injuries shows an increase in recent years, to more than 10,000 annually. Fatalities have risen slightly as well, with six reported deaths in 1999.

Most amusement parks are inspected by state, local and/or insurance officials. But the federal government has no right to investigate accidents.

“Now there can be an incident and no one even has to tell anybody about it,” says Ann Brown, chairwoman of the CPSC. “If you don’t read about it in the newspapers or see it on TV, you don’t even know it happened.”

Under proposed new legislation, the National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act (H.R. 3032), the federal government could investigate whenever an accident occurred, issue public warnings and even demand industry-wide repairs or recalls.

Note: Details may not sum to totals due to rounding. Source: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Industry Stands By Statistics

The amusement park industry insists they have enough regulations, and even if injuries are increasing, they say, the odds of any visitor being hurt are exceedingly slim.

John Graff, president of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, believes theme parks to be “far and away the safest kind of entertainment, amusement or recreation that people can engage in.”

The trade organization points to CPSC figures that show more people are injured annually by fishing, dancing, golfing or bicycling than were injured on or in amusement rides.

But just this past weekend, firemen had to rescue up to 50 riders when a skylift at Adventureland Park, just north of Des Moines, Iowa, came to an abrupt stop. No one was injured and most were freed within two hours. But nine of the passengers were stranded 50 feet above the ground for at least four hours.

Such incidents are proving powerful catalysts for demanding accountability.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.