Canadian amusement parks are monitoring a Texas police investigation that is examining why a woman fell to her death from a 14-storey roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas, near Dallas.
Police confirmed Sunday that the woman, whose identity has not yet been released, tumbled from the train car she was riding in. The mishap occurred shortly before 7 p.m. Friday on the Texas Giant roller coaster. Foul play is not suspected.
Six Flags said the ride would remain closed while the police investigation continues. The amusement park and the Texas Department of Insurance, which approves rides, are also assessing what went wrong.
“It would be a disservice to the family to speculate regarding what transpired,” park spokeswoman Sharon Parker said in a statement.
Statistics on amusement ride injuries and deaths are not readily available in Canada. One of the deadliest roller-coaster incidents occurred in June, 1986 on the Mindbender at West Edmonton Mall. Three people died when a train car stalled on the final loop, slid backward and slammed into a pillar. The crash prompted several changes to the ride, including additional restraints for riders and anti-rollback devices for the cars. There has not been an accident on the coaster since then.
Canada’s Wonderland, the country’s largest theme park, has not had a ride-related death in 33 seasons of operation, said Dineen Beaven, the park’s public-relations manager. She noted the permanent park, north of Toronto, has provided more than 693 million rides since it opened in 1981.
“We follow very strict guidelines when it comes to safety. We have daily, weekly, monthly, annual checks that we do on all of our rides,” Ms. Beaven said.
The Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) in Vancouver, set to open Aug. 17, monitors all amusement-ride deaths and injuries at other parks, said spokeswoman Laura Ballance. She said the PNE does not have a roller coaster resembling the one at Six Flags Over Texas.
Opened in 1990 as an all-wooden coaster, the Texas Giant underwent a $10-million (U.S.) renovation in recent years to install steel-hybrid rails. Today, it is the tallest steel-hybrid coaster in the world.
After Friday’s deadly incident, park visitor Carmen Brown raised questions about the coaster’s safety bar. Ms. Brown told The Dallas Morning News she saw the woman being strapped in. The safety bar clicked only once instead of three times for other riders, Ms. Brown said.
“They didn’t secure her right,” Ms. Brown contended. “Hers only clicked once. Hers was the only one that went down once, and she didn’t feel safe, but they let her still get on the ride.”
Ryerson University associate professor Kathryn Woodcock, director of the school’s Tools for Holistic Ride Inspection Learning and Leadership lab, said it’s too soon to tell what lessons the ride’s mishap will offer Canadian amusement park operators. She expects “everyone from operators to manufacturers to regulators will be making extra checks and reviews of their systems, equipment, and procedures.”
Prof. Woodcock hopes the incident will make riders more aware about the immense energy and speed generated by roller coasters. If a restraint does not seem to fit properly, she said riders should get off the coaster.
“It’s unfortunate to wait in line and then have to make the decision not to ride, but the consequences can be devastating,” Prof. Woodcock wrote in an e-mail.
In the United States, there were 1,204 ride-related injuries reported in 2011 – about 4.3 for every million visitors – according to the National Safety Council’s most recent data. Of those injuries, 61 were serious. Fatalities were not listed in the report.