Discussions about Parks and Fairs in America
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Maintenance workers faulted in Kentucky Kingdom drop tower accident
"For safety, best performance and long life of the equipment, a reliable preventative maintenance program must be carried out according to the maintenance guidelines. For damages caused by failure to follow these instructions or by changes in the systems … no claims can be made to the manufacturer." - Specifications of ride manufacturer Intamin AG
(Monday, April 14, 2008) - Ride technicians at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom theme park never performed a hands-on inspection of any of the 10 cables on the Superman Tower of Power thrill ride that severed a girl's legs last summer, according to a sworn statement given by the park's ride maintenance manager, John Schmidt. He also stated that technicians did not lubricate the cables monthly, as recommended by the ride's manufacturer, Intamin AG of Switzerland. The ride's cables were tested periodically with a micrometer, he said.
The ride manual indicates that maintenance technicians should conduct a "rag test" to detect for snags or fractures in the cables at least every six months. Workers were to perform the test by wrapping a cotton rag around each cable while the ride is set to maintenance mode. The manual states that "snagging of the rag on the cable indicates broken wires or some other significant flaw is present."
Schmidt said that workers performed visual inspections of each cable, but that "It was never brought to my attention to check those cables with a rag for snags."
When asked whether the ride's cables had been lubricated, Schmidt answered, "Not by a person, no." He then explained that some of the lubrication that was applied to the car rails would "end up on the cables," and that high winds would sometimes blow the cables into the rails, causing them to pick up grease. Schmidt believed that there was excessive grease on the cables, and that this would cause cables to slip on the drum as the ride was in motion. To prevent slippage, he said that corn starch was applied to the cables to dry them. Intamin's specifications did not indicate that corn starch be used at any time.
Earlier this year, a 16-year-old ride operator who was on duty at the Superman tower said that she "heard something snap" as the car was lifted to the top of the tower, then moved into a position where she could see the problems with the cables. She then called to the other operator to press the emergency stop button. "… I was like, 'Press the stop button,' then by the time we did that, it was too late. It was already down."
Six Flags denies responsibility for the accident. The victim's parents are suing the park for negligence. They are not suing Intamin or the manufacturer of the cable that snapped.
The exact cause of the failure has not yet been determined, however one test by a metallurgical laboratory reported that there were cracks, rust and a lack of lubrication near the cable break.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture continues its investigation.
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