Some Amusement Park Accidents Have Little to Do with the Rides
October 15, 2014, 08:00:00AM. By Gordon Gibb
Upper Marlboro, MD: In most cases an amusement park accident or incident involves a mechanical problem with a ride or other attraction through mechanical breakdown, poor maintenance procedures or operator error. Newer riders are increasingly sophisticated, and faster.
Some Amusement Park Accidents Have Little to Do with the RidesHowever, a fact of amusement park life that is not often mentioned is park security – especially when there are targeted events that draw specific demographics and clientele in large numbers. In the story we are about to tell you, a horrific theme park accident had nothing to do with the rides, but everything to do with crowd control and security.
As reported by The Washington Post (Washington Post Blogs 9/29/14), Six Flags America, located in Maryland, hosted what is billed as “Fright Fest,” a themed weekend targeting teens and young adults during the lead-up to Halloween. This year, on September 27, it has been reported that a massive fight broke out amongst attendees at the event.
According to The Washington Post, two juveniles were transported to the hospital with what were described at the time as “non-life threatening injuries.” However, one of the boys, who is 15 years old and not identified, was found to have suffered a fractured skull, amongst other injuries. He worsened in the hospital and his situation became dire. Doctors reportedly placed the teen in a medically induced coma in order to minimize brain stimulation, and on September 29, according to the report, doctors had planned to remove part of the boy’s skull in an effort to relieve swelling in his brain.
Zina Pierre was identified as a spokesperson for the injured teen’s family and characterized injuries to the teen as a random act.
It is not known if the family has considered an amusement park lawsuit on behalf of their injured son. A spokesperson at Six Flags America characterized the situation as isolated. “The safety and security of our guests is always our number one priority,” Six Flags officials said in a statement published in The Washington Post. “The unacceptable events that took place Saturday evening represent an isolated incident.”
There is a suggestion, however, that the amusement park accident involving the injured teens might have been prevented had the event been canceled in advance. There are reports the fights may have been planned in advance, according to various postings on Twitter that referenced “fight night” at Six Flags, or making references about people “planning to fight at six flags.”
Others on Twitter denounced the plans to brawl: “people still gonna fight at six flags,” someone tweeted on the day of the incident. Another wrote, “If You Fight At Six Flags, Your Childish.” (sic)
“I hope nobody don’t fight at six flags, but I already gotta feeling they are,” tweeted yet another. (sic)
The scene was described as chaotic. Injuries were random acts.
Critics liken the event to a rave that can attract multitudes of people – so many in fact that police have a hard time controlling unruly crowds. An eyewitness to the amusement park melee, Dianne McNair, described the scene in The Washington Post report as chaotic as she arrived to pick up her 15-year-old grandson. McNair noted there were about 20 police cars surrounding the area.
She described swarms of random altercations on a grassy knoll outside of the park perimeter. When one swarm was broken up by police, a new swarm formed and fighting resumed. “[The fighting] was popping up in so many places like a firestorm,” McNair said, in comments published in the report.
The eyewitness said that when the second scrum was broken up, she saw a girl lying on the ground, unconscious and limp.
As for the injured teen with the fractured skull, family spokesperson Pierre noted that “he was hit blindly by the perpetrators and he was staggering trying to get up and someone else came along to finish the deed,” Pierre said.
An update from The Washington Post on October 3 described the injured teen as progressing well following surgery. Officials at Six Flags America noted it had beefed up security and moved the visitor pick-up and drop-off points in time for the second weekend of Fright Fest, the annual lead-up to Halloween. There have been no reports of subsequent brawls.
However, officials at Six Flags America said on September 29 that they had no intention of canceling the event that appeals to young people and fans of All’s Hallowed Eve each year.
Theme Park accidents tend to increase on holidays and long weekends, such as Memorial Day and the 4th of July. Theme Parks like to tag onto holidays as a way to attract larger numbers of patrons to the park. Halloween is one such occasion.
However, beyond theme park accidents involving the rides and attractions themselves – that sometimes result in amusement park deaths – are the events that can sometimes occur when large groups of a single demographic gather.
Six Flags America has opted to increase security to prevent a further occurrence, but appears to have no plans to cancel the annual event. The report also noted that fighting took place outside the perimeter of the park, potentially providing an escape for liability for Six Flags.
Plaintiffs in an amusement park lawsuit might argue that the fighting, regardless of where it occurred, might not have been mitigated had Six Flags not “invited” the potential for random scuffles by holding the event in the first place…