I worked at a theme park for several seasons and dealt with many terrified quests. Whilst these people find the prospect of taking on the roller coaster terrifying my experience has taught me that the most dangerous place to be in a theme park is underneath the rides not on them. A person falling out of a ride is such a rare occurrence that it isn’t worth worrying about but flying debris is another matter!
Sadly many people ignore the instructions to leave lose articles behind when they ride roller coasters. This results is an endless number of mobile phones, lighters, cigarette packets, cosmetics and other personal possessions flying off of the guests at high speed with many ending up raining on the heads of visitors waiting in line or standing next to the ride to watch proceedings. These items also regularly hit the staff on the rides and I can tell you that a mobile phone travelling at 80 mph really hurts when it hits you! The best phone incident I ever witnessed was on a spinning flat ride when a mobile flew out of someone’s pocket arcing into the air and landing in one of the boats on the nearby log flume. The phone was later reunited with its grateful owner!
Sadly it is not only personal items that turn into high speed ballistics at the parks. Pieces of the rides themselves can also be a hazard and as they are often metal they can cause nasty injuries. Track bolts are the most common issue. The forces of the rides cause stress to the structures and every so often one of the bolts holding the assembly together will give way under the strain. There is no danger to the ride as every section is held together by several bolts but it is a different matter for anyone who gets hit by the thing as it falls to the ground. The bolts usually make a load explosive noise when they go so if you hear anything like that then run for cover! If you witness a bolt failure then do report the incident to the staff immediately as they may be unaware of what has happened. Rides built on unstable or recently reclaimed land are particularly prone to track bolt failure so take extra care around these coasters.
In addition to track bolts other pieces of the rides can work their way free over time. I have known signs, metal sheets, lumps of rubber and seat buckles to fly off on the circuit, usually without warning. The rides are checked regularly but sometimes there is a sudden and unforeseen failure sending debris into queue lines around the ride. I have seen many people in the aftermath of being struck by pieces of the ride but thankfully the injuries have been minor. In spite of this I have often wondered if it would be a good idea to wear some protection. If you have a cycle or motocross helmet it might be worth wearing it whilst you are queuing. You will get some funny looks but will have the last laugh if you deflect flying debris.
Article By Sally Stacey