Theme park accidents shine spotlight on industry safety
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Theme park accidents shine spotlight on industry safety

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The safety of attractions in the US has been pushed into the spotlight following a week in which rides caused the death of one child and left five others seriously injured.

Ten-year-old Caleb Thomas was killed while riding Verrückt – the world’s tallest waterslide – on 7 August when his seatbelt reportedly came loose. The following day three young girls in Tennessee were seriously injured after falling from an overturned gondola on a Ferris wheel, with the youngest, aged six, currently in critical condition with a brain injury. Then on 12 August, a three-year-old boy was hospitalised after falling from a rollercoaster at an amusement park in Pennsylvania.

The events follow on from a tough 2015, which featured the high-profile Smiler accident at Alton Towers and the firestorm at a Waterpark in Taiwan which caused the deaths of 22 people and resulted in more than 400 burn injuries.

“Those of us who have spent our lives in this great leisure industry agree that we will never stop striving for ‘zero incidents’. A stubbed toe is, quite frankly, one too many,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme park Services (ITPS), speaking to Attractions Management, who urged that as visitor attractions evolve, so must safety protocols.

“Through the years, our rides and attractions have advanced in rider experience. Higher, faster, longer are a few of the characteristics which we now oversee on a daily basis,” he said. “It is incumbent on the industry to institute the necessary and appropriate safety programs to accompany continuously heightened experiences.

“We will never stop striving to achieve total safety for our industry, for our employees, or for our guests. We well know if we are lackadaisical for even a moment about safety, we are errand and we will not let that ever happen if humanly possible. For if we did, we would put ourselves out of business.”

Speaking to Attractions Management in December, IAAPA chair John McReynolds raised the issue of safety among the attractions body’s members, stating that the industry must stand for safety at all times as a top priority, with the body holding several safety institutes this year in Argentina, Canada, China, and last week in Brazil. IAAPA’s next safety institute is scheduled for 30 August in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, with events to follow in Japan, Spain and Guatemala before the end of the year.

“We have had the lead position to make sure that different standards around the world become harmonised,” said McReynolds. “That has been a critical objective of IAAPA over the past handful of years. We’ve had some tremendous leaders in that, whether it’s Steve Blum from Universal or Greg Hale from Disney, or individuals from all over the globe. Through volunteer leadership, this organisation is harmonising those standards to bring everyone up to our level.”

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The safety of attractions in the US has been pushed into the spotlight following a week in which rides caused the death of one child and left five others seriously injured.
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